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Dwelling in the Devil’s Lair - 95%

Evil_Johnny_666, May 19th, 2009

By now, not including their first five eps, all four Sabbat albums were of a more or less consistent style. They played a sort of black thrash metal breed, losing some of the thrash elements along the way, adjusting their sound to a more black metal sounding one, while refining their thrashiness with a more researched and original riffing, their leads gaining a more "oriental occult" sound - and which I would call the "sabbatical sound" along some other hard to describe particularities in the riffing. They also ventured in doom metal territory at times among other styles, or played merely nods to those genres and worked on finding an identity within their vocal deliveries. With Disembody, Gezol established his own vocal style which he would use up to this album, keeping some particularities for a couple of songs from subsequent alums, while Temis mostly kept his style intact. While with Disembody Sabbat would have found a more unique and sabbatical sound than their first two albums - which are still really good and unique in their own way - Fetishism portrayed a band trying to evolve their sound further, making it sound a lot more malevolent and evil, while reaching several metal sub-genres and at the same time refining their sabbatical edge in their sound that would make them recognizable even if a good number of their albums or eps are quite distinct. With the album at hand, The Dwelling, Sabbat dared defying the norm. Probably getting the idea from Venom's At War With Satan, since they were a big influence for them, Sabbat thought of going further down the path of Venom's experimentation with progressiveness. Not only by releasing a whole 12" side as one track, but by composing such song that would need the surface of 4 sides of analog grooves. Well, it lasts long enough for needing one more vinyl not by a long shot - the song is almost 60 minutes long - but still, its success solely depends on the higher songwriting skills veteran musicians would possess. Some moments of the preceding album showed Sabbat could considerate the ambitious idea of such enterprise.

Most songs of that length have several distinct parts, of which could be considered as songs or tracks for a more convenient listen to a casual listener, but are recognizable as one work which usually have as a particularity a more progressive sound and recurring melodies unifying the musical piece. With The Dwelling, Sabbat proved they were up to the challenge of not only making one more progressive, coherent and unified song, but a most enjoyable one. Due to its nature, it is a release quite hard to grasp on its first spins; you can't chose one particular part, there are no real verse/chorus/verse/chorus foundations as the length can be a turn-off and make it become some sort of background music if you lose concentration. The Dwelling can't be more of a grower, sure;y you'll find some ass-kicking moment on your first listen, but only after giving it much time will you be able to truly appreciate this masterpiece.

First of all, if you could find words such as black or thrash describing any Sabbat material, here The Dwelling really goes beyond genre classification. Sure there's some thrashing moments, more black metal sounding ones or doomy at times too, but others are definitely to analyze, as a whole it just sounds like... metal. The aforementioned sabbatical sound is all over the place; a lot of melodic, single string bending is present in the lead work with some rather inventive and odd rhythms they may create. The song often changes pace, mood or almost gives place to silence only to come back with a twist. If Temis' riffing is nothing but stellar, Zorugelion's drum work is worth praising too. He mostly is always inventive but he surpasses himself here, though he's not coma inducing during the whole length, there are clearly some moments of brilliance scattered across the lp helped by some original use of cymbals and toms. Gezol's bass lines are really good, sometimes playing the same riff as the guitar, sometimes acting as a second guitar appropriately supporting it with complementary rhythms. Speaking of the string instruments, there is a little change in mixing here compared to previous Sabbat albums - which its main particularity being used for the Harmageddon eps. Nothing is layered, there is only one guitar recorded except during solos and some leads and each of them are played at higher volume in different channels, the bass being the left one and the guitar the right one. It may sound like a problem, but I hardly noticed until I got into the album more deeply. As for the vocals, they are still shared by Temis and Gezol, but they are experimenting a little and their usual performance isn't completely identical to Fetishism. Gezol's vocals are less throaty and he may go for stranger, more over the top screaming as Temis would do some unusual, more melodic high pitched vocals and some other vocal effects would be appropriately used such as whispers. They both sing at the same time in some moments, and know how to complement each other, it could be compared to twin guitar leads.

But back to the songwriting, like I said, The Dwelling is a release hard to classify in any particular metal genre and it sounds unlike anything Sabbat ever released, though it does really sound progressive. It can be rather hard to imagine them being progressive considering their previous releases, but as with At War With Satan, it clearly sounds like it's the same band playing, though a lot less here. The overall atmosphere is a lot less dark and malevolent than on the previous album, but it still sounds evil at times and it reaches paths less explored like more desperate, melancholic or mysterious moods. Some kind of buzzing eerie keyboards are also used across the lp, giving a feel no Sabbat song ever conveyed some acoustic guitar is also played to good effect. Beside all that, what is really interesting, is the recurring melodies, riffs or parts. There's even a moment where during one of those already played a while back riff, one of Temis' many tasteful solos is played on top of it, creating some most epic feel. And about the overall evolution of the album, some parts could be considered as small songs, but they are kept to a short length and don't really feel like a complete song. And sometimes it almost seems as one song finishes and another one starts, but everything is constructing in such a way that it reminds you that you are still listening to the same song. The guys clearly didn't lack inspiration as it is really well written and they don’t give you time to let your interest down. Also, it's some kind of concept album, one about the twisted story/genesis of a so-called "mask" hunter - read: he likes to chops heads and collect them for the different expressions of terror they may have impregnated on them, using them for "sinful and artful purposes". Interesting - and macabre - enough, but you won't be able to make out any of the lyrics if you don't have them on sight.

The Dwelling is a complete success, Sabbat proved to be on par with their ambition and helped them paving a path to reach new grounds with their trademark sound. The album is progressive, epic, adventurous, defying anyone who might question the force that the mighty Sabbat is. They really put Venom's output down to a as merely a really long song; it's so good, that it puts some pure progressive metal bands to shame. This is art, a true testament to their talent, perseverance and passion.