The Sabbathian’s spellbinding storytelling, dark, occult woe form enrapturing ‘Ritual Rites’

The OccultationAs much as I love music that makes me take spiritual journeys and pull apart ideas and wonder the meaning of it all, it’s also nice when you can sit down and not have to do a ton of introspection about what’s beneath it all. We get that today with new band The Sabbathian.

OK, that’s kind of bullshit. The “no deep exploration” thing only pertains to the band’s name. You pretty much know what you’re going to get, right? Traditional doom in the vein of … that classic Birmingham-based quartet that started it all. Throw in some Candlemass and even a little bit of recently passed modern act The Devil’s Blood, and you’ve got a good handle of what you’ll hear on the band’s three-track debut “Ritual Rites.” Now, once you dig into the music and the incredible Occult-based themes lurking, then you’ll have plenty to dissect and digest. So it turns out you do get to take a dangerous little journey after all. Just from this quick first taste, this band is one of the more hopeful new bands holding up the doom banner, and I’m really excited about what they have in store in the future as their coven grows.

The Sabbathian was put together by Chad Davis, who played in the great Hour of 13 (a band that never really got its just due) and also is a member of countless other acts such as Olde, Mountain of Judgement, Chains, and Profane Grace. On this record, he handles a yeoman’s portion of the effort with guitars, bass, drums, and even some vocals. Joey Downs (Altar Blood) adds his two cents with his rhythm guitar work. But the real star of this trio is Nordic vocalist Anette Uvaas Gulbrandsen, who has played with bands such as Leaves Eyes, Nattsol, and Mandylion. Her voice is spellbinding, as her words entrance and demand your utmost respect and attention. She sounds like she’s transcending worlds and planes of existence, and she gives a very bloody heart and soul to these tracks. She’s an incredible force and this band’s most potent weapon.

“Ancient’s Curse” is your opener, and right away it’s going for your throat. It’s a great case of classic doom storytelling, both musically and lyrically, with guitars chugging, dark emotions rising, and Gulbrandsen unleashing that incredible voice that sounds like it was created specifically for this style of music. The song is alluring and powerful, the scenes are scary, the melodies could cause you to trance out, and the soloing is rock solid and immediately impactful. It’s a tremendous first cut, but it just keeps going for blood from there. The title cut has a mystical, eerie start, with the vocals calling for evil and the spirits of the underworld to rise up. “Ruler of all undead,” Gulbrandsen summons, with her singing conjuring a sense of dread and horror. Later she demands, “Turn the cross upside down,” as the band backs her with a fiery force that adds even more punch to her words. Closer “Nightshade Eternal” bursts open with soaring vocals, sounding like it’s designed to soundtrack a ritual. The guitar continue to churn and burn, and the singing drops in register, as Gulbrandsen reaches into her guts for the worst possible sentiments to spread over everything. There is great classic metal feel to the music, making me think of the pioneers of the genre, but then the track blasts into speed previously kept hidden. The final minutes of the track work to flatten, as the band gallops hard, with Gulbrandsen declaring, “We are the night, we are the dead,” showing such great command, you never doubt her for one second.

This killer debut positions The Sabbathian as one of the most promising new doom acts anywhere. This is a fun, blistering listen, with evil intent and darkness for you in bulk. And because it’s such a short release, going back and listening over again certainly isn’t a chore. “Ritual Rites” demands your undivided attention, and no doubt you’ll be willing to hand it over mere minutes into this thing. I can’t wait to hear what this band can do with a full-length record.

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