Review – Sabbat – Mad Gods and Englishmen Boxset

New reviewer Neil Cook pops his #ukthrashers cherry with the legendary Sabbat here’s what he thinks about the new box set of classics from Noise Records…

Well this is a real time-capsule of a release.  Mad Gods And Englishmen (You see what they did there!) is a box set containing SABBAT’s recorded output between 1987 and 1990, consisting of the albums History Of A Time To Come and Dreamweaver (Reflections Of Our Yesterdays) plus Live In East Berlin and the BBC Friday Rock Show Sessions.

SABBAT from Nottingham were formed in 1985 from the ashes of a band called HYDRA (Not the nemesis of S.H.I.E.L.D, but named after a VENOM track), and remained together until 1991, not long after the release of their 3rdalbum Mourning Has Broken, which isn’t included here, which is a shame for completists, but hey! That’s life. The band did have a brief return in the noughties, but it didn’t stick.  

Probably best remembered for two of its members, their vocalist Martin Walkyier, he of an incredibly distinctive vocal style who went on to be the voice of Folk Metal pioneers SKKYCLAD and guitarist Andy Sneap, who apart from being a very in-demand Metal producer working with SAXON for example, he is currently a member of JUDAS PRIEST part of their twin guitar attack squad! 

That is now what about then?  History Of A Time To Come is a more than decent debut. As thrashy as any of the other “Brit-Thrash” bands of the time, you could definitely hear more of their DNA in NWOBHM than say the Hardcore or Punk roots of their American cousins, but also taking a more technical styling from the “Euro-Thrash” bands of the time, the technicality coming from Sneap’s skills and prowess with the axe even back then. However, it is Walkyiersunique delivery that mark SABBAT’s distinctive sound.  His vocals were clear whether spitting out venom or shrieking like a Banshee, but he had a strange intonation to add an extra syllable to the ends of some words (Paradise-aahh, Fire-raaah etc.), which actually takes a while to get used too, and you definitely start listening out for it when you should just be getting into the music. But this is clearly a classic and a cornerstone for the genre. 

Dreamweaver really shows progression from History. Musically adding Simon Jones as a second guitarist filled their sound out giving more depth, which seems to allow Martin’s vocals to expand, become more precise and powerful at the same time. Lyrically and musically too this album, is clever and progressive. Heck I don’t know if it is because I’d got used to the idioms of his delivery or perhaps Martin had toned it down on this one. For me Dreamweaver is clear bridge from NWOBHM and Euro bands such as MERCIFUL FATE to the Extreme Metal of CRADLE OF FILTH et-al of today.  History is definitely the more memorable album, but Dreamweaver is the better sonically.

The BBC Sessions, are very interesting versions of songs from History, especially in their King Diamond-esqdelivery and Live In East Berlin show these songs and this band work in the live setting too.  They take on a harder, more direct sound live, and whilst Walkyiers vocals seem to take on a gruffer tone, with less range than on the recorded offerings, it still shows a band who could thrash very hard live.  However, some of the between song banter is a tad cringy, verging on being a bit Spinal Tap, and two encores! Really guys even in the 90’s this was a bit excessive!

So much stuff to here to analyse every song, but my favorites are: 

History – A Cautionary Tale, Hosanna In Excelsis, For Those Who Died (even with the daft intro!)

Dreamweaver – The Clerical Conspiracy, Do Dark Horses Dream Of Nightmare, How Have The Mighty Fallen

In conclusion a great reminder of one of our greatest British Thrash bands at their best, and where one of the members of today’s still relevant biggest Heavy Metal titans came from. A lesson from History if you will, and we should not ignore such lessons!

Available on Noise Records Today Friday 19th… if you are quick enough!!

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