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Sabbat - Envenom Review

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Sabbat - Envenom

Sabbat - Envenom

Japan’s Sabbat was caught in the limbo black metal was in between their thrash-heavy era and the style that would develop from Sweden and Norway in the early ‘90s. Though the modern definition of black metal can be heard from countless bands, including Burzum and Immortal, those who have followed the genre for a long time can look back to bands like Venom and Celtic Frost for the blueprints of what was to come. Sabbat took from these latter bands with their sound, and what they came up with was the classic, yet underrated, Envenom.

Sabbat had been mulling around for years before Envenom saw its release, and this time working on countless EPs and demos was a great benefit to the band. There is a lack of sloppiness in their playing that a band like Venom was known for. These guys don’t push the boundaries of metal, but the array of Mercyful Fate-inspired leads are not just slops of shredding. The guitars aim for a more immediate response that makes their inclusion important to the album.

The music is more inspired by thrash metal, though bassist Gezol’s raspy howl is clearly more in line with the standards of black metal. “Evil Nations” is that unavoidable anthem that has to be played every time one listens to the album. “King Of Hell” is a funeral march, its stomping pace leading to the slaughterhouse of guitar-laced inferno. Sabbat even handles a six-minute tune well, making “Deathtemptation” a harrowing listen that never takes a breather.

The oddest stylistic choice is the multitude of instrumentals that bookend Envenom. Two of them start the album, and two close it out. It’s strange to have to go through a few instrumentals to get to the meat of the album, though “The Sixth Candle” is a catchy, short ride through Hell. “Dead March” has enough guitar harmonies to make Adrian Smith and Dave Murray flash a smile, and the creepy, synth/organ playing on “Reminiscent Bells” is a chilling end to the album.

These songs are all about praising at the altar of Lucifer, which is not hard to fathom with songs titles like “Satan Bless You” and “Devil Worship.” It’s all done for maximum cheesiness, and having goofy high-pitched vocals on “Carcassvoice,” for example, makes it harder to take seriously. Most won’t be able to decipher Gezol’s vocals anyway, as they are lost in the raw production that dates the album even further back than the original 1991 release year.

Envenom holds up surprisingly good for an album over 20 years old. The production issues notwithstanding, the music is fast, loaded with air guitar-worthy solos, and infectious music with an evil grin. Sabbat used Envenom as the starting juncture for where the rest of the fruitful career would stem out into, and is still a valuable piece of early black metal. For being generally wicked and a solid thrash/black hybrid, Envenom gets the nod for this week’s Retro Recommendation.

“Evil Nations” Video

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