If Sabbath Assembly's 2015 self-titled release was any indication of the direction they were heading, their brand new album Rites of Passage is the full realization of that trajectory. Now on their sixth album, the band have long incorporated occult metal, doom, folk, and psychedelia into a bewitching style that's led by the alluring vocals of former Hammer of Misfortune singer Jamie Myers. With a recently revamped line-up that includes guitarist Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia), drummer Dave Nuss, bassist Johnny Deblase, and guitarist Ron Varod (Kayo Dot, Psalm Zero, Zvi), this appears to be the most potent version of Sabbath Assembly yet.
While tunes like "Shadows Revenge" and "I Must Be Gone" still contain that occult, doom laden edge, the influence of Hufnagel & Varod's more progressive leanings are quickly seeping into the music, giving a complex edge to "Angels Trumpets", the guitars bouncing and weaving off each other in intricate fashion. Myers' angelic crooning floats over the top of majestic instrumentation on the lush "Does Love Die", while the slow build of the menacing "Twilight of God" culminates with beefy, textured riffs and pounding rhythms. Those complex, twisting riffs again appear on the brief yet effective "Seven Sermons to the Dead", Jamie spewing her venom over bombastic arrangements like a bizarre, occult themed re-imagining of Gorguts. For the near 9-minute "The Bride of Darkness" it's doom laden progressive metal all the way, crushing riffs meshing with lilting folk chords, Holdsworthian guitar solos, and psychedelic/prog atmosphere...chilling stuff.
Rites of Passage is ultimately a fascinating listen, stacked with a variety of moods, textures, and colors, powerful yet tranquil, dark but also uplifting. Sabbath Assembly have crafted their magnum opus here folks, so go ahead and dig in deep.
03_I Must Be Gone
04_Does Love Die
05_Twilight of God
06_Seven Sermons to the Dead
07_The Bride of Darkness