From the get go I have adamantly often held that Sabbath Assembly is one of the most crucial projects in modern music. I could say underground, fringe or occult or metal, to be precise. That feels really almost insulting, though. Would you reign in Kylesa? Would you throw a cap on the cosmic bottle that is Blues Pills? Could you fit, say most absurdly, fucking Neurosis in a box? The massive wall of sound of universal themes in the West Coast legend’s sound is way too vast and powerful an EXPERIENCE to insult with consistently marginalizing tags/signifiers. Sabbath Assembly fall exactly into such a category, to ironically use categories. Whether composing at times frail, foreboding or forlorn adaptations on Process Church hymns to Christ and Lucifer or getting really heady with conceptual photos or videos, the band has evolved fluidly under the expanding consciousness of founder David Christian Nuss.
Whenever Sabbath Assembly has released something I can’t help but submit questions or give in to curiosity, eager to see where the lengthening strange trip is headed. As it turns out, right now the often “smart” Sabbath Assembly kind of just want to fucking rock. And that’s more than OK! “The Firey Angel Of Desire” is evidence alone they are on to something really exciting as they cross a new threshold. It almost sounds like Maiden playing Sabbath Assembly!
Results are in and the new Sabbath Assembly record is a fucking wallop, by far their heaviest brew yet. It proves they could tour with perhaps a much wider array of bands than previously people may have expected, though I hope they won’t ditch their more mercurial early Hymn based material while henceforth writing original rock music. You can hear two new tracks from the forthcoming self-titled “new birth” HERE.
Read our fresh interview with David and vocalist Jamie Myers BELOW.
How are you today? How does it feel to have completed another record? I saw you have an Instagram page. Do you feel the band is entering more of a sort of in your face “rock” stage rather than maybe being as mysterious or fringe as initially?
Jamie: We are doing well, thanks for asking. It’s quite fulfilling to have another record under our belts. Its important to keep moving forward and challenge ourselves creatively. Each album has certainly has it’s own “feel” and that’s been part of the beauty in reinterpreting the hymns. We never set out with the goal of fitting into a specific genre of music. We wanted each of the records to be its own experience. We each brought to the table what inspired us us and allowed us to creatively feed off of one another, but it was only natural that we return to our metal roots with this original material, it’s in our blood. As for Instagram, I like to use it as a platform to share our art and that of others. I spend a lot of time brainstorming with David about visual concepts I’d like to explore and in some cases I build entire installations just to capture one moment on film. The same attention goes into the videos that I have made and the ones that we have collaborated on with others. I think that aspect of our craft will always have mysterious undertones.
David: We enjoy connecting with people through our music, and I suppose social media is the way to do that these days. That’s always been the intention with the band – the cultic themes created an air of mystery, true, but even the Process Church spent most of their time handing out magazines on street corners and trying to get people to come to their meetings. Such it is with the exoteric and esoteric aspects of things….
Can you discuss the evolution between this album and Quaternity? This album sounds quite different. Is it true you have moved away from traditional Process Church material? Was this a break in ideology or more due to running out of hymns?
David: Moving more to a rock format and away from hymns happened for two reasons – first, the hymns don’t connect very well live cuz we’re playing in rock clubs and festival formats and the hymns were written for a more communal church setting; and second they are less fun to play over time. The hymns don’t express much emotionally. The harder edge of metal is most comfortable for us as writers and creates songs that are consistently inspiring to perform onstage because they are full of feeling. Regarding ‘running out of hymns,” there are definitely many more and if anyone wants to play them please contact me and I’ll send you the book!
Jamie: Yes, there are definitely more hymns, however many of them are so similar in nature and many are written with the same structure and lyrical notion. Over time it would be stifling to limit ourselves to only those hymns. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the concepts present on each of the albums, but it is time for a new chapter. As Dave said, we as musicians must be inspired in order to continue to connect with ourselves and our audience.
Haha, I def think your versions of the Hymns expressed a lot emotionally, for the record…but I feel you. Love the new stuff as well. Have there been any line up changes? It’s awesome how each record sort of has a certain vibe yet they could all be listened to in shuffle mode.
David: Yeah i’m afraid the new album may not shuffle well with some of the earlier ones, but let me know! Jamie and Kevin and I have now been working together on three records, and this new album has our friend Johnny DeBlase on bass. He’s a super brain with musical composition and we love having him.
Have you been inspired by some of the other doomy yet hard rocking bands like Castle or Demon Lung? There’s a real classic metal element to “Risen From Below” that reminds me a bit of those bands, in a good way.
Jamie: I’ve seen both of the bands you mentioned live and they rock! I love seeing powerful women playing instruments and fronting bands, so in that regard I find them inspiring even if I don’t think our music is too similar. I wouldn’t mind playing live with either or both bands, it would make a great bill.
David: I think the main difference between our band and doom bands is that our songs are almost always written with a vocal melody in mind first, rather than starting with a guitar riff that the vocalist has to fit something over. I like this method of composing because it allows for wider emotional expression and more chordal variance. If a band has to be loud and only certain chords sound ‘right’ according to your genre, then the creative process has already been limited. It’s like writing poetry but only having 100 words in your vocabulary. That’s what happened with songs on the radio now – there’s no more poetry or subtlety, it’s just explicit fucking and drugs. And I don’t mind fucking and drugs but at least it’s a bit deeper if you can write about it using a poetic device.
“Sharp Edge Of The Earth” still has the sort of acoustic textured/mystical revelation quality of older tracks like “Jehovah On Death” or Eno ot Derotser‘s version of “Hymn Of Consecration.” Will this always be part of the band’s sound in some form? Speaking of Eno ot Derotser, I saw that Kevin Rutmanis played on that record. Was that the only release he was on? I love his time period with The Melvins.
Jamie: “Sharp Edge” is my favorite track on the album. I love sharing an intimate moment with Kevin on the record. Some of the best recollections I have of working on this new material is when we were sitting in Kevin’s living room going over the new material. It was just him with an acoustic guitar in hand, me singing and David softly keeping the tempo on a small hand drum. Those are the quiet writing moments that you can really get to the heart of a song. When things are stripped down and exposed you can really hear whats going on and things start happening organically. You quickly hear what works and what needs to be scrapped, the end result is much more authentic. I think that really shines through on that particular song.
David: “Sharp Edge” we feel was one of the big successes of this album because it was a kind of bridge between our earlier work and the tone of the new album. We all like working with acoustic parts because it allows for real clarity of vocal expression, with no distortion of tone or intention, and no wall of sound to hide behind. Kevin “The Roots” Rutmanis only played on those first recordings and we’ve had no contact with him since then.
How does it feel to have undoubtedly created something rather unique via the arc of Sabbath Assembly’s formation to present?
David: It feels like a new beginning, really exciting. We really see this as our first album in the sense that it is the first time we have been able to make our own album based entirely on our own sensibilities. It feels like freedom.
Do you find composing originals harder or easier than adapting Process material?
Jamie: Originals are far easier to conceive and see through to completion. They are much more rewarding as well. The rapport between David, Kevin and I has been strongly established and is musically exhilarating. The three of us have many years of experience amongst us and have been part of many different bands, but this is the album that we have each longed to create. Adding Johnny and Eva (she tours with us and plays viola on a couple of the tracks), to the mix is the icing on the cake. It’s a solid group that I feel honored to work with.
David: I find that composing originals is easier because we as a band are the only people we have to answer to. Doing Process hymns, we had former Church members hassling us about “authenticity,” which is a valid point of critique of course but not very liberating for the performers. With our new songs we just rely on the chemistry of the band.
Were the lyrics composed as a band for this record or primarily by Jamie? I was particularly moved by “Apparition of the Revolution”. Could you elaborate on the themes of that song? Is revolution a dead language or is it dangerous to fool ourselves into feeling futility, leaving the door open for the oppressors of the world?
Jamie: David was the lyrical mastermind on this album. We would discuss themes, he would present the lyrics to me and would allow me the freedom to amend any parts. I focused much of my energy on phrasing, melodies, writing harmonies and overall delivery of the lyrics. As a vocalist it’s exciting to be someone’s muse and have them write with your voice in mind. To be released of that responsibility and to not have to be overly critical of my own writing is incredible. I enjoy writing lyrics, but it’s freeing to get to execute a “role” and dive whole heartedly into it.
David: I wrote the lyrics for “Apparition”, and your question is basically the same one that the song raises. In the song it’s applied more to personal relationships and issues of dominance and submission rather than politics, but the question of the illusory nature of “revolution” is essentially what’s at stake. We can all relate to the kind of “a-ha” moment in which the psyche experiences an overturning that indicates a ‘change’ of some kind happening; for imbalanced people this comes more frequently, which leads to impulsive behaviors. I think the wiser perspective on social change reveals a slower movement, and it’s worthwhile to be skeptical when people run around proclaiming revolution. The perspective of this song, again focusing on personal relationships, is that people never fucking change, and if they do it happens in geological time. And anyway, to quote John Lennon, “You say you want a revolution? You better free your mind instead.”
Nuss coffin shot by Jake Gonzales
Group shot by Jamie Myers