. . .

A black metal label puts out a psych rock record - and it makes complete sense. I'm not talking about shoving a sax into black metal. I'm talking about music before metal; fuzz, not distortion; hippies, not hipsters.

The Process Church of the Final Judgment was a religious cult in the '60s and '70s. It worshipped Christ, Jehovah, Lucifer, and Satan. The Process believed that during the final judgment, Christ and Satan would patch things up, then get together to fuck shit up. It was a twist on the usual religious trope of "us right, everyone else wrong".

Last year Feral House published a book called Love Sex Fear Death, written by a Process member. The book contained skeletal sheet music of The Process' hymns. (See here and here.) No original recordings exist of the hymns, so Jex Thoth (singer for the band named after her), Xtian (aka Dave Nuss of the No-Neck Blues Band), and producer Randall Dunn (Earth, Sunn O))), Wolves in the Throne Room) decided to bring them to life.

The results are enthralling. Thoth has touched upon occult topics with her band. But free of its doom-y sprawl, her voice soars higher than ever. The music is strictly throwback - psych rock, rhythm and blues, gospel. Tones are relatively clean, laying bare the illogic of the subject matter. "We Give Our Lives" and "Judge of Mankind" each offer separate verses to Christ, Jehovah, Lucifer, and Satan. See, for example, "We Give Our Lives":

The Lord Jehovah, power and will
Faith and courage now instilled
With strength and truth of new life born
And faith to enter this new dawn

The Lord Lucifer, the glorious Light
Wondrous presence, gift of sight
The path revealed, new life to build
The phoenix risen, the promise fulfilled

The Lord Satan, our souls inspire
With gift of love, our new desire
To share with all the Unity
The fire of love brings purity

The Lord Christ, salvation through
Death of the old, birth of the new
Reborn to give the spark of truth
To show the Chosen eternal youth

The AJNA Offensive is the perfect label to release this stuff. It is the North American partner of Norma Evangelium Diaboli, the French label that specializes in orthodox black metal, which revels in religious postures and language, including high-flown Latin, except that the deity is Satan, not God.

Orthodox black metal is certainly more one-sided than The Process' all-inclusiveness. But when Erik Danielsson of Watain would rather talk to Christians than atheists, the attraction for the opponent is evident. Take that attraction to its illogical end, and you get The Process. Like much of metal, it preaches an end time message. However, in the hands of Sabbath Assembly, that message is crystal clear. The apocalypse does not come buried under blastbeats and growls. It arrives on the wing of an angelic voice.

— Cosmo Lee
Front page photo by Allegra Pacheco

. . .

The Sabbath Assembly release show is tonight, June 15, in Brooklyn. See details here.

. . .

Amazon (CD)
Amazon (MP3)
The End (CD, LP)
The AJNA Offensive (LP)
The AJNA Offensive (CD)
The AJNA Offensive (book)
Sabbath Assembly MySpace