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Gone Thrashin' Chapter 1: Something More? - 97%

Empyreal, January 14th, 2009

Greetings ladies, germs and everything else that might be lurking out there in the bowels of the Internet. I am your host this evening, and I would like to inform you that for the next month or so, I will be engaging in a weekly series of reviews entitled Gone Thrashing, dedicated to that ever-loving Metal bastion known as Thrash, in all its timeless glory, paying tribute to the first weeks of the new year where I went on a big Thrash binge and got my face melted off. So, let's get started, then.

Thrash is a weird sort of beast for me. I like most of the classic bands, but a lot of them didn't get me as fired up as they seemed to get everyone else. Yes, I enjoyed headbanging and rocking out to the fast tempos and ballsy aggression, but Thrash was never one of my greatest passions or anything. It seemed for the longest time like the genre wasn't living up to its potential. A lot of the bands playing in the style were very good, heavy and fast, but it seemed like they could have been more. Other genres all have bands that transcend their genre and experiment, but with Thrash, it seemed like experimentation would drive a band over the line and into some other genre, thus preventing any sort of evolution that didn't sound like shit. However, there were a few bands, like the subject of this week's review, Sabbat, that did find a way to inject some fiery creativity and innovation into a sound that didn't thrive off such things.

Sabbat's main draw was divided into two parts: Martin Walkyier and Andy Sneap, two raging gods hurling lightning bolts at each other above the dark and stormy clouds as all the humans run and hide. Walkyier, who would later go on to front Folk Metal legends Skyclad, takes the mic here, spitting out his long, elaborate lyrical musings in a very distinctive voice that sets this band apart from any other to ever walk the Earth. He sings in this crazy, Thrashy yammer, except its about twice the usual speed, and he also sings at a much lower pitch than most singers in the genre do. He sounds almost vitriolic here, but he also never goes over the top or becomes a parody of himself. He always sounds menacing, he's always legitimately passionate about his lyrics (which revolve around a book about a Christian missionary going to convert the Pagan masses), and he's always spot-on in his delivery, which must have been pretty fucking hard, as he is singing so fast that you barely have time to make out most of the lyrics. God damn, man, take a breath!

Andy Sneap, who would later become a big-name producer for a lot of popular Metal bands, does the guitars here, alongside Simon Jones, with his signature dry-as-a-plank-of-wood tone, but we'll forget about that for now. The point here is RIFFS. Lots and lots of riffs, and none of them suck. These guys threw all caution to the wind and just wrote six long, detailed songs full of every last riff they could think of, and they chained them together with a set of ironclad metallic melodies reminiscent of anything Maiden or Priest could have put out. This guy is so fucking fast that I must give drummer Simon Negus and bassist Fraser Craske kudos for being able to keep up. That is talent, people.

Sneap seemed to be issuing a challenge to Walkyier and the rest of the band here: can you keep up? So they accepted, and out came this insane, rip-roaring adventure of an album, blowing open the gates with the snarling, furious attack of "The Clerical Conspiracy," and following that up with album highlights like the diabolically catchy riff-monster "Do Dark Horses Dream of Nightmares?" which also has one of the coolest song titles ever, and the duo of "Best of Enemies" and "How Have the Mighty Fallen," which are rich with time changes and melodic textures that are both complex and memorable. "Wildfire" is a bit more direct and pugilistic, but it doesn't rule any less, and "Mythistory" finishes things off with a slightly slower paced groove and some ominous, hovering rhythms behind the riffs that just work. Then, we get an short, mellow outro piece. Yay?

But seriously, Dreamweaver rules, hard, and I think this is the best Thrash album I've ever heard as of yet. If you don't like this, keep listening to it until you do.

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