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Where savagery and technical skill collide - 86%

Valfars Ghost, November 16th, 2015

Fusing pagan sensibilities with not folk metal but a varied and technical thrash sound, Sabbat’s History of a Time to Come is perhaps the most memorable British album of the late 80s. In a country without a strong thrash scene, the short-lived powerhouse team that was axmaster Andy Sneap and singer Martin Walkyier crafted some solid thrash that frenetically bounced between slow and fast passages while maintaining tight, complex songwriting. Though it doesn’t stand quite as tall as its immediate successor, 1989’s Dreamweaver, this odd little gem is a treat for anyone who wants to try out a thrash album that isn’t just a fast and heavy onslaught from beginning to end.

The composition of this album is thoughtful at every moment. Sabbat has a more intellectual approach than just about any other thrash metal band, with its profound and poetic lyrics and well-crafted interplays between guitar, drums, and bass. Speed-laden passages charge onward with complicated riffs that are rough-shod enough to keep the album feeling organic. Then, suddenly, the song will switch to a simpler passages that creeps forward with a strong sense of purpose. You often can’t predict when it’ll happen but when it does, it’s in a spot that makes sense and the transition, whether it’s smooth or abrupt, always feels right. History frequently shifts back and forth between complex but recklessly fast rhythms and slower moments, maintaining enough variety through the album’s runtime to keep it from ever getting boring except during the mostly pointless ‘A Dead Man’s Robe’. Even ‘Horned is the Hunter’, the album’s epic, 8-minute centerpiece, is a dynamic beast that feels far shorter than it is and delivers almost nothing but thrills.

History has a damn fine production job that gives each instrument a chance to shine, while also sounding dirty, as European thrash metal should. Even the bass is prominent enough to provide a strong pulse just beneath the guitar and drums without calling attention to itself. This makes the album feel fully-realized and fleshed-out, with its roughness and balance providing the perfect backdrop for the vocals.

Speaking of vocals, forming an opinion on Martin Walkyier’s singing is tough because it has two separate flavors. They’re both consistent with each other but far apart in terms of quality. The one Walkyier prefers and uses the most is thankfully the best. During these passages, his voice has a vicious flair that’s truly demonic. His other vocal style is a shriek that fits with the music but is a bit grating. Luckily it doesn’t appear often.

Another thing that keeps Walkyier’s vocals from being as delicious as they could be is this habit he shares with Flogging Molly’s singer of putting a short ‘a’ sound after almost every goddamn syllable. The line “through each strata (sic) of society the poison infiltrates” from ‘Behind the Crooked Cross’ would more accurately be written as “Through each strata of-a society-a the poison-a infil-a trates-a.” Those extra syllables aren’t subtle either. It’s like Walkyier takes pride in this technique that sounds almost like a speech impediment and emphasizes it as much as he can.

With Walkyier’s raspy vocals and the album’s overall production bringing the nastiness of mainland Europe’s thrash metal and the instrumentation providing the sort of technical prowess that was a hallmark of the West Coast scene, what we have here is a beast of an album. While its members, particularly Sneap, certainly have some impressive chops, nothing ever seems like a pointless display of skill. People who love technical thrash should find plenty to love here but the album’s strong focus and complex yet sensible structuring should make it easy for any metal fan to approach.

Thrash with class - 85%

Felix 1666, July 26th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1988, 12" vinyl, Noise Records

"Rule, Britannia! Britannia rule the waves!" Well, we all know that Britannia really ruled the seven seas for a time span of several centuries. But the United Kingdom, to touch a sore spot, never ruled thrash metal. At best this is the plot for the history of a time to come.

While a lot of German thrash metal squadrons could prove their perseverance, their breakable British counterparts were dropping like flies. Slammer and D.A.M., Deathwish and Xentrix, would you be so kind as to tell us what went wrong? Unfortunately, we must confront Sabbat with the same question. The line-up change after two grandiose full-lengths turned out to be a suicidal act. However, the debut of the band was promising and energizing at the same time.

Although the guitars sometimes sounded like a swarm of insects, "heavy metal" was written all over the slightly uneven face of the production. The physiognomic irregularities were based on the fairly insane vocals of Martin Walkyier. Due to his highly expressive style of singing, he was an accuser, starry-eyed idealist and madman simultaneously. His characteristic performance could be entered on the credit side of the account. Apart from his singing, the overlong lyrics posed a challenge. Unfortunately, I never saw them on stage so that I do not know whether Walkyier was able to manage this flood of words when standing before the audience. However, his charismatic voice was not the only trump card of the juvenile quartet. Sabbat had many more irons in the fire. Just let me put the tracks themselves into the limelight.

Three songs stood out. The fast-paced "A Cautionary Tale" was the straightest piece of the album. It had the potential to break your neck, but it was not really representing the usually more complicated style of the band. The more protruding riffs of the excellent first two songs of the B side revealed the typical approach of the British guys. But their neglect of straightness was not at the expense of catchiness. For example, both the howling riff at the beginning of "I for an Eye" as well as the desperate second part of the verse of "For Those Who Died" offered a high degree of distinctiveness. The same applied to the powerful chorus of the latter. The sadistic request of a hysterical crowd ("Burning, into the fire") made me shiver while seeing a dark medieval scene before my inner eye. Regardless of these three highlights, nearly each and every song glittered with interesting details like a dark acoustic intro, a diabolic laughter or fantastic twists and turns. I was intrigued by the overwhelming creativity of these debutants when listening to this release for the first time. Only the lyrics of the brilliant "Behind the Crooked Cross" dealt with a more or less hackneyed topic. Nevertheless, the clever band was able to handle this situation intelligently.

Finally, do not be fooled by the painted portraits of the band members on the sleeve of the album. The folkloric touch of the images did not indicate the musical direction. Sabbat played pure thrash metal without lacking in authenticity. Their autonomous style could not be compared with the rumbling approach of German bands such as Kreator or Sodom and they also did not only focus on the sharp riffs of the thrashing Bay Area hordes. Despite a relatively huge number of breaks, the songs had a natural flow. Sabbat did not put the emphasis on progressiveness. They just had a lot of good ideas. I regret all the more that they did not have the discipline to write, record and release more than only two albums with the here operating line-up. It aspired gamely to excellence and worked like a well-oiled engine whose cogs were carefully balanced. In view of Sabbat´s brief existence, it was all the more important that "History of a Time to Come" left its mark successfully. Only the British Navy was even more impressive.

Yours must be Hell - 95%

autothrall, January 13th, 2010

After a pair of demos and the "Blood for the Blood God" flexi-disc in White Dwarf magazine, it was only a matter of time before Sabbat birthed their first full-length masterpiece. That the amazing Noise Records signed the band comes as no surprise, they had possibly the best taste of any independent label in the 80s when it came to filling out their roster.

Thus, Sabbat released their debut, and one of the most impressive occult speed/thrash metal albums of its day. Martin Walkyier's vile vocal style is the perfect vehicle to steer the endless cavalry of well-constructed, intense riffing. I realize he got a little more diverse with Skyclad, but none of the goofy puns and limericks of that later project could touch his excellent lyrics and savage delivery in this band. His use of multiple styles really works in a conversational tone, from his snarls to his deeper, 'Chaos' voice.

A resounding intro piece leads into "A Cautionary Tale", an amazing Faustian track. Who could forget Walkyier's infernal sneering of: Bell, book and candle, candle, book, bell, forwards and backwards to damn me to Hell. "Hosanna in Excelsis" is an inspiration, charging piece about the revenge of the fallen angels upon Earth and Heaven, and it even reflects this in the lyrics, which are again unsurpassed in their delivery: Hark! The fallen Angels sing: Glory to Satan our King! The Holy Church we thus defied, the usurper crucified! set to an amazing, thrashing breakdown riff. "Behind the Crooked Cross" leers at you from behind its namesake, a crawling yet powerful track with some pickup speed metal. "Horned is the Hunter" is yet another excellent composition, with resonant acoustic intro which takes you to a sylvan glade before the chords erupt. "I for An Eye" features some cool harmonics over its opening riff, and is yet another track about the deception of the supposed path of divinity, as told to Lucifer as he was cast from Heaven, in total Paradise Lost style dialogue:

"For Those Who Died" is a tribute to the witches falsely burned at the stake. "A Dead Man's Robe" is an epic speed metal instrumental with a nice refrained, charging riff and subsequent breakdown. "The Church Bizarre" is a loving tribute to 'donations' to the pulpit. Religion and hypocrisy are such central subjects to this band, carrying through onto their 2nd album. But Sabbat handled it so well with Walkyier's mocking, clever lyrical explorations, it made the rest of the thrash/speed metal scene seem almost childlike and foolish by comparison. It's also clear that Martin was heavily inspired by classic English literature, a feat that would only be repeated once Cradle of Filth came along (a band who cites Sabbat as a major influence, it's not difficult to hear or see why, Dani also uses a mixture of snarls and grunts to deliver his classical and poetic lyrics). In fact I feel this record had a largely uncredited impact on the emerging black metal genre as a whole. The band has reunited since Walkyier left Skyclad, to do some reunion tours and festival. Who knows if we'll get a new album.

If there is one reason I can't give this album a perfect score, the mix of the album does not hold up for me particularly well, and I favor the 2nd album Dreamweaver ever so slightly for this reason. It's not bad but the guitars don't carry a lot of resounding power. Regardless, this is one of the best thrash/speed metal albums of the 20th century, cohesive and impressive. It's one of the albums that forever emblazoned my soul with the phrase 'Thrash Until Death'. Absolutely mandatory listening, as well as its successor.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Really Fucking Excellent - 89%

JohnEvans3605, May 2nd, 2005

Excellence, True excellence.

Sabbat’s classic: “History of a Time To Come” was their first release, and in this reviewers opinion, their greatest. Coming straight out of jolly old England, Sabbat were one of the most unique bands of their time, combining neckwhipping riffs and blazing solos with a cockney charm that only singer Martin Walkyier could provide: a strong, opinionated, rapid fire vocal assault, spewing thought provoking lyrics that makes the listener scratch their head while between periods of banging it. In addition to Walkyier’s vocal tyranny, we have an excellent guitar player in Andy Sneap. Sneap, now predominantly known as a producer, showcases his skills quite excellently on this release, while not hogging the spotlight away from the rest of the band. However, do not assume Sneap is a slouch. Many of the riffs on this album are LETHAL. Take the tracks “A Cautionary Tale” and “Horned is the Hunter” and just listen to the riff madness. Riffs and Time Changes galore!!! Frazer Caske’s bass is also noticeable, as opposed to thrash bands like Slayer, Sepultura and Exodus in which it is quite hard to hear. Simon Negus’s drums are quite competent, yet nothing extra-ordinary.

Highlights: Pretty much all the songs. Everyone seems to adore “Behind the Crooked Cross”, but I’m not too crazy about it compared to the others on the disc.

BELL, BOOK, CANDLE, CANDLE, BOOK, BELL,
FORWARDS AND BACKWARDS TO DAMN ME TO HELL

Whaaat, I haven't reviewed this one yet? - 87%

UltraBoris, May 29th, 2004

My bad. I coulda sworn I had a review for this one up! God only knows I've listened to this one enough times... at home, while driving down Route 666 (no kidding, there is such a highway in New Mexico), etcetc...

Hark, the fallen angels sing! Glory to THRAAASSHH, our king! This album is pretty much about as thrash as it gets... this thing just comes out of nowhere and pretty much takes the overt middle-break theory of Nuclear Assault, combines it with the subtle melody and not-so-subtle riffage of Overkill and Exodus, circa 1985, and then throws in the dark atmosphere of the second Possessed LP, and at times the strange marching riff patterns that is clearly the influence of Destruction.

Oh, and Shakespeare on vocals. Maybe not quite as lyrically impressive in the titles as "do dark horses dream of nightmares", still this leaves one in awe of such constructions as "transform your bed of roses to a premature grave", delivered at machine-gun intensity, with a tone reminscent of Cronos or maybe even Becerra...

then, those riffs. Oh, those riffs. Holy crap... check out the monster thrash break in Behind the Crooked Cross. "IN THIS! CONDITION! OF SHEER INSANITY!!", or the entire length of "A Dead Man's Robe", with its "Ready, set, bang" Rotten to the Core meets Destruction riffset.

The first half of the album is subtly stronger than the second, probably because of the novelty value, and also I swear that it's recorded LOUDER. The production is overall very well done, with everything that needs to be heard (riffage) perfectly audible. There's a cheesy intro, and another little interlude at the beginning of For Those that Died, and the rest of the time it's all thrash all the time.

Highlights... aforementioned Crooked Cross, which I still have not yet decided if it's better than its Slayer counterpart (both are fucking excellent), also Hark the fallen angels sing!!! (Hosanna in Excelsis), and the opener, A Cautionary Tale. TO BURN IN HELL... FOR ALL MY DAYS!!!

Fuck yes. Well worth getting. A staple of thrash metal.