Interview by Alessandra Cognetta
If you’ve never heard about them, this is a good chance to get to know more about Sabbath Assembly, a daring musical project that focuses its works on the hymns and texts of the Process Church (which we’re talking about right below). Their second album “Ye Are Gods” has just been released by Svart Recods and Ajna Offensive and we had the privilege to speak with mastermind Dave “Christian” Nuss and vocalist Jamie Myers about the new album and much, much more.
Hello and welcome to Femme Metal! It’s a pleasure to have you both here. Sabbath Assembly‘s upcoming album “Ye Are Gods” will be released in a few days, how are you and how do you feel during such an important phase?
Jamie: Terribly excited!
Dave: We are excited and grateful for the opportunity to share this music with the world.
How would you describe “Ye Are Gods” to someone who still hasn’t had the chance to listen to it?
Dave: “Ye Are Gods” presents hymns and liturgical text of the Process Church of the Final Judgment, a religious movement that began in the UK in the 1960′s. These are prayers and praise songs to the four major deities in Western religion: Christ, Satan, Lucifer and Jehovah. The album brings the listener through a cycle of spiritual death and resurrection.
There are a lot of guests on the album, with Genesis P-Orridge voicing the Sacrifist, Eyving Kang playing viola on “Declaration of Gods” and Imaad Wasif delivering a stunning performance on “We Give Our Lives”. How were these collaborations born?
Dave: The project seems to attract a wide range of occult thinkers and performers, and we welcome this opportunity to bring many voices to the recordings. Genesis came on board via Feral House Books, who supported our first album and subsequently recommended Gen to the project. Imaad was part of the very first incarnation of Sabbath Assembly and was recommended by the publisher of Timothy Wyllie’s book about the Process, to be discussed further below.
Jamie, let’s talk a bit about your involvement with the new album. What was your approach on Sabbath Assembly‘s music (previous works included), and how much did you participate in the creation process?
Jamie: When Dave first approached me about the project we had many discussions about which direction to take the new material in. He was extremely open to new ideas and graciously allowed me the room to explore the music in my own way. Especially when it came to reinterpreting the hymns from a vocal standpoint. It was important to me that I approach the melodies and harmonies with a level of creativity that satisfied me, while still maintaining the authenticity of the original hymns. Dave and I seemed to bounce ideas off of one another with a certain amount of ease and I was appreciative of the freedom to experiment with “Ye are Gods”. Nothing felt overly planned. There was good chemistry and the spontaneity just flowed.
It almost seems like you recorded the album as one whole piece, I admit I had to check a few times to see what track I was listening to. Was it in your plans to give the album this sense of, if I may say so, “unity” (integrity?), or was it a natural development of the writing process?
Dave: The album follows the structure and format of the Process’ “Sabbath Assembly” liturgy. Our task was to blend together text and hymn in such a way that a rock album was made, rather than simply a document of a Church recording. We tried this more documentarian approach at first, and the results fell flat. Our hope is that the story of the liturgy is well-conveyed through the final result of weaving prayers and hymns into and through each other. The credit for the narrative flow must go to the writers of the Mass.
What drew you towards the Process Church in the first place? How did you find out about it and why did it catch your interest to the point that you decided to base your musical production on it?
Dave: In Timothy Wyllie’s book “LOVE SEX FEAR DEATH”, there are several reproductions of sheet music in with the photos and propaganda of the Church. These immediately caught my eye, and in particular one called, “Christ and Satan Joined in Unity.” For some years I had been light-heartedly referring to myself as a ‘Christian Satanist’ — I just felt I could sympathize with both sides — and here was a hymn that was singing about this exact concept. It was a great moment of synchronicity; and thus a plan was hatched to bring these hymns into the world.
Your music is (please, correct me if I’m wrong) at present the only recorded version available of the hymns. Do you consider this a burden, a responsibility, or a pleasure, being able to spread Processean theology?
Dave: These are the only recordings of the hymns, and we do feel a great honor and responsibility in bringing them into the world. We’ve had many discussions in the arranging process about the question of authenticity. In the final analysis, Sabbath Assembly are interpreters, not historians. On the first album we printed the sheet music for two hymns in the cd booklet of the EU tour version, and on this album we print sheet music for 8 hymns, in both the LP and CD. Part of the intention behind this is to express that Sabbath Assembly does not hold any exclusive right on singing and recording this music; and others, should they feel inspired, can also participate in this movement. This is one reason we try to keep the focus of Sabbath Assembly as much as possible away from the personalities of the band; it’s the message that’s important, not the members.
The song “In The Time of Abaddon II” features words from the “Discourse of Abaddon” by Timothy I of Alexandria (Bishop of Alexandria between 378 and 384) and is the first track from “Ye Are Gods” to get a – very suggestive – music video. Why did you choose to implement part of this scroll and how is it linked to the Processean main theme of the album?
Dave: The first album has a song called “In the Time of Abaddon”, so in the wake of performing that tune we embarked on some research into the myth and story Abaddon, the Angel of Death, and discovered the “Discourse”. In terms of the album sequence, the song follows the hymn “Christ, You Bring the End”, for Abaddon is the creature you meet at your “End”; he frightens your corpse with his hideous appearance so that you willingly give your soul to God. “Abaddon II” is actually not a Processean hymn but one we wrote ourselves because we wanted a moment with a particularly dark feel, and honestly most of the Process hymns are fairly joyful. On a deeper level, the “Discourse” presents an ambiguous portrayal of Abaddon and his interaction with Jehovah that leaves the reader wondering who’s actually the “evil” one in the story. This moral complexity of what is “evil” and what is “good” also fits well with Processean ideas.
Jamie, what brought you to Sabbath Assembly? You performed with Hammers of Misfortune and Wolves in the Throne Room before joining forces with Dave, how would you describe these three phases of your career?
Jamie: I started out in music like many of my peers. I tagged along with my older sibling to a ton of metal shows and spent a lot of my youth going to DIY shows and playing in punk/hardcore bands. All the while, seeking out and listening to any interesting bit of music I could find. I would scour the dusty record bins at second hand stores for anything metal, punk, deathrock, even old country. It didn’t stop there either, I made it my mission to seek out every prog rock gem I could get my hands on. So when the offer to play bass and sing for Hammers was laid on the table I snatched it up. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play music that was influenced by some of my favorite musical genres. The level of musicianship that the members of Hammers had was unlike any other project I had been a part of. It really pushed me to better myself as a bass player and vocalist. My involvement with Wolves followed some shows that Hammers had played with them. I had a strong connection with the Weaver brothers and could tell that those guys were on the brink of something great. So when they asked me to work with them I happily obliged. In a round about way, performances with those two bands are what led to my involvement with Sabbath Assembly. Dave and I were familiar with each other’s music and had come from similar backgrounds so it wasn’t a stretch for the two of us to collaborate.
Timothy Wyllie (an original Process Church member) is featured on “Transcendence”, his voice delivering words from “Gods on War” by Process Church founder Robert DeGrimston. Why did you decide to seek him out and what where his thoughts on Sabbath Assembly?
Dave: For the album sequence we needed a moment following the apocalyptic “Abaddon” to bridge us into the redemptive tale that is the last track, “The Love of the Gods”. Timothy‘s homily about “the new beginning” that follows every death is absolutely inspiring. He has been a part of Sabbath Assembly since the beginning of the band, actually, as he and I and his book publisher, Jodi Willie, hatched the idea of the project together at a Book Expo in NYC that presented his book about the Process. Since then he has been a great support.
Have you ever received any particular or unusual critics or comments regarding your music?
Dave: We saw recently that a critic tore apart the last track on our album, “Love of the Gods” because of the positive vibes. It is important for people to know that while the Process did dress in black and preach about the Apocalypse, they also spoke with great joy of the inevitable reconciliation that awaits those who can unify good and evil in their lives — the Phoenix rising from the ashes. In some circles it’s more acceptable to sing about death, and in others it’s more acceptable to sing about life; Sabbath Assembly needs to do both.
Dave, I’ve read that playing drums and listening to rock music caused you some troubles in the past, to use an euphemism. It’s no secret that religion isn’t very fond of metal music. I’m Catholic and live in Italy, and I’d be redundant if I described the poor situation we’re in, “metal-wise”. Do you think there is a way to reach a sort of reconciliation, or maybe there’s already some form of mutual understanding and we just can’t see it (because having something to whine about is more entertaining)?
Dave: I really feel that what the Process teaches is a gateway for the future of Metal. We passed through the Satanic thrash of the 80s and the Church-burning black metal of the 90s. Karmically these steps needed to happen because of the history of the Christian Church and the repressive and destructive steps it took to control the darkness. Darkness of course can’t be controlled or repressed; it is always there, even if you can’t feel it for one moment it is waiting to resurface. So repressing is not the key as much as managing. In this regard, an explosive Satanic Weremacht may not be what the world needs today as much as a more balanced approach. I don’t mean that stylistically music needs to become as tonal and folky as Sabbath Assembly at all, I just mean that thematically bands could potentially work more with the idea of balance. While the metal scene seems to be accepting of bands like us, we can imagine that — MAYBE — in about 1000 years, the Catholic Church will begin to acknowledge the wisdom in this approach.
What can we expect from Sabbath Assembly in the future? Will you still draw inspirations from the Process Church or do you intend to explore new paths?
Dave: There are still many more hymns and texts to explore within the Process Church, so as of now the plan is to continue sharing the depths of their theology as it is revealed to us over time.
That’s it! Thank you both for taking the time to answer our questions. This is the “write whatever you want” space, so feel free to leave a message to fans and readers. We hope to see you soon on the road!
Dave & Jamie: Yes – see you on tour in Spring 2013!
While Heaven Wept – “Triumph : Tragedy : Transcendance – Live at the Hammer of Doom” LIVE ALBUM (2010)
Label : Cruz del Sur Music/High Roller Records/Iron Kodex Records
Review by Stina
On some occasions, live albums/DVDs might tend to mark certain – hopefully memorable – circumstances: relevant anniversaries, for example, or maybe a special performance in a significant venue. While Heaven Wept‘s first live package – a CD/DVD 2 disc set released via Cruz Del Sur Music on November 8th, 2010 in a quantity of 3000 copies, plus an additional, limited edition 2LP set released through a joint collaboration between Cruz Del Sur Music, High Roller Records and Iron Kodex Records in a quantity of 1000 copies, including a poster, insert and housed in heavy gatefold sleeve – adheres to any of the aforementioned criteria yet it is not truly any of the above. A document of a band in their 20th year, and – and as far as locations go, recorded during the band’s appearance at Hammer of Doom festival, in Germany, the real purpose of this release is better explained in the words of primary writer and overall engine of the band, mainman Tom Philips: “The philosophy behind this release is twofold; first, it is an expression of our gratitude to everyone who attended the show – who made it such a special, unforgettable experience for us. Secondly, being that there are many places that WHW would like to perform, but we’ve yet to reach, hopefully this will hold those waiting over until we can broker a deal to appear in your city, in person”. “Triumph:Tragedy:Transcendence” might not capture the most extensive live set ever performed (a total of seven tracks, plus the usual bonus material including rehearsal films, a 20-minute interview and three additional live versions of songs already played in the Hammer of Doom show), but it does surely make up for that detail, as it reaches as far back as the band’s 1998 debut “Sorrow of the Angels”, bringing together a nice collection that spans all the band’s releases, much to the fans’ pleasure. This renders the result not just a cobbled-together, fans-only collector’s item, but also an overall enjoyable work, and even an excellent introduction to the legendary Doom act from Virginia, also thanks to the excellent quality of the performance, both sound-wise and also technically. Covering an expanse of nuances from the serene and celestial to the epic and raging and a kaleidoscopic plethora of dispositions in-between due to the reason mentioned above (as anyone who’s familiar with the discography of WHW is able to testify), “Triumph:Tragedy:Transcendence” showcases a jaw-dropping interplay between the musicians that’s remarkably fluid, perfectly coordinated and crystal clear – individual contributions are outstandingly discernible and the atmosphere created by the synths of Michelle Schrotz (the lady of the band, with whom she has recently parted ways – only on a temporary basis, thankfully – due to maternity reasons), who is also responsible for the harmonized female vocals, coat the execution of the songs in a chilling but soothing fashion. This live release has mostly been criticized for its coldness (most of the audience’s reaction is silenced, which gives an impeccable but a bit studio-like feel to the overall performance) but the presence of this flaw which the reviewer only perceives as minor should be let get in the way of the validity of the work. Sure, While Heaven Wept may not have invented melody-infused Epic Doom, but they sure have put an indelible stamp on it over the last twenty years – which means two things: first and foremost, any fan of the band would better grab a copy of this live release, and secondly, if you, reader, are yet to investigate the soundscapes of this fine femme-related band, don’t you think the time is now?
Rating – 80/100
- Vast Ocean Lachrymose
- The Furthest Shore (Parts 1-3)
- Soul Sadness
- The Drowning Years
- Of Empires Forlorn
- Thus With a Kiss I Die
- Rain Irving – Lead Vocals
- Scott Loose – Guitar
- Tom Phillips – Guitar, Keyboards & Vocals
- Michelle Schrotz – Keyboards, Vocals
- Jim Hunter – Bass, Vocals
- Trevor Schrotz – Drums
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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