Album of the Week 04-2013: Sabbat – Dreamweaver

Riffs. Loads of vicious riffs. And a singer who sounds like he’s possessed, singing lyrics that are remarkably poetic for a Thrash Metal band. It must be a Sabbat album! And it is. While guitarist Andy Sneap would later gain much more fame as the ultimate contemporary Metal producer and singer Martin Walkyier’s lyrical genius would get a more prominent place in the music of the world’s first (and only good) Folk Metal band Skyclad, ‘Dreamweaver’ stands as a work of art that is the best recording that both gentlemen have been involved with.

British Thrash bands always seemed to have a somewhat darker tone than their American or German brothers. This was especially true for Sabbat. While Sneap’s compositions matched the vicious aggression of a band like Kreator with the technical prowess of what Exodus was doing at the time, the general atmosphere of the music and the occult references in Walkyier’s lyrics gives the whole thing an ambience not unlike Mercyful Fate. As a concept album loosely based on Brian Bates’ ‘The Way Of Wyrd’, ‘Dreamweaver’ fully profits from this sense of darkness; the music grows darker as the story does.

While Walkyier retains a similar vocal style – his powerful, rough-edged bark – throughout most of the album (he shows a fragile, clean vocal line which works beautifully on the acoustic ‘Advent Of Insanity’), he does a very good job at putting down the characters introduced in the lyric sheet. Especially in the downright awesome opening track ‘The Clerical Conspiracy’, where almost every riff change introduces a new character. And while the trouble Walkyier found coming up with lyrics over the enormous amount of riffs Sneap provided eventually caused his departure from Sabbat, it’s the lyrics and riffs battling for attention that really pushes this album to its rightful classic status.

Highlights of ‘Dreamweaver’ include the vicious, warp speed Thrash of ‘The Clerical Conspiracy’, the epic ‘Do Dark Horses Dream Of Nightmares?’ (keep in mind that we’re dealing with lyrics of Metal’s Shakespeare here), the super-tight twin guitar majesty and tempo and mood changes of the amazing ‘How Have The Mighty Fallen?’ and the fantastic apotheosis that is ‘Mythistory’, but the entire album is worth hearing. The concept of the album adds a continuity missing from many Thrash albums of the era, which were generally frontloaded with the good stuff. And considering that concept albums were considered carreer suicide at the time, it was a daring move that worked out perfectly.

It’s quite common for the best album of an above-average band to be mislabelled a “forgotten classic” or something similar and therefore such terms have lost their meaning somewhat. ‘Dreamweaver’, however, is a classic album. Almost 25 years after its original release, the only criticism you could have is that the production lacks a certain punch, although the guitars sound as aggressive as they should. This is stuff that should be heard by anyone into Thrash. Fans of Death- and Black Metal may like this too; Dani Filth’s quote praising this album used on the cover may lure in some Cradle Of Filth fans, who would have to conclude that this is better than any other Metal album that ever came from England.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Clerical Conspiracy’, ‘How Have The Mighty Fallen?’, ‘Do Dark Horses Dream Of Nightmares?’

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