Sabbat - _Sabbatical Holocaust (Five Massacre Demonslaughts)_
(Time Before Time Records, 2004)
by: James Montague (7.5 out of 10)
"Five Massacre Demonslaughts" -- translated for the sane, this means "five Sabbat 7" EPs pressed onto CD". These are the first five of the band's career, released in the days before they adopted the curiously Japanese habit of putting out fifty limited vinyl pressings a year, so in fact this compilation spans a staggering five year period (1985-1990).

"Five" is clearly an important number when discussing this release, along with the ubiquitous "666", but that goes without saying. Does it deserve a five-star rating? Very nearly. This is a classic hit of old-school black/thrash metal from a band that cut its teeth at the same time as Bathory were making a bigger name for themselves over in Europe. The Sabbat of the late '80s played in a similar vein to the first few Bathory, Sodom and Hellhammer / Celtic Frost EPs/LPs, but with arguably better songwriting and certainly better musicianship. Fast, slow, melodic, gritty and ugly: they do it all with aplomb. There is a slight undercurrent of evil running through the music (in fact the band were originally called Evil), but all in a cartoonish Grim Reaper kind of way. The true strength of the band is in its mastery of thrash riffology -- this is neckbreaking thrash for drunk, long-haired louts. And it's not in the least bit ridiculous. Sabbat may not take themselves too seriously, but they do take metal seriously, and you can't help but admire the spirit of these heavy metal samurai.

The compilation loses points for what is essentially an "official bootleg" presentation; the liner notes proudly proclaim that the tracks were recorded directly from the vinyl, but it hardly takes a sound engineering genius to work that out, given that the snap-crackle-pop of 14-to-19 year old vinyl discs is clearly evident. Not a lick of remastering on this CD -- would it really have been so hard to tidy things up a bit without eliminating the feel of the music? I think not. The CD is also rounded off with three live tracks from 1986, containing impeccable performance but a weak sound; certainly there are many live recordings by the band that blow this one away.

It's hard to complain about 76 of minutes of killer blackened thrash, but keep in mind that Nuclear War Now! put out a stunning reissue of three Sabbat EPs in a 6" boxset in 2004; its name is _Sabbatical Satanichrist Slaughter_, and I'd recommend you put that ahead of Time Before Time's lazy effort on your shopping list. Still, the rule of thumb with Sabbat is to take what you can get, whenever you can get it, because it's a right pain in the arse to get hold of their quality recordings.


(article published 31/5/2004)

8/31/2003 J Montague 6 Sabbat - Svart Eld
5/13/2001 A Wee 8 Sabbat - Live Meltdown
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