1989 May 27 – KERRANG! 240

On dark steeds they rode, from the hallowed encampment known only as
“Nottingham” towards the haunted city of “Berlin”. The purpose of their quest? To
record a mega-mystical album entitled “Dreamweaver (Reflections of Our Yesterdays)”
and to educate mankind in The Way of Wyrd. Spinal Tap eat your heart out!
It’s another everyday story of those shy young SABBAT folk by PAUL MILLER…

Compared to many, Nottingham Thrash darlings Sabbat have had a piss-easy ride. They began as four fresh-faced youths armed with a plateful of ideas, a saucerful of riffs and a taste for Vincent Price’s cast-offs.
Next, on the strength of a home-recorded demo, they were thrust into the full Kerrang! spotlight and granted a Radio One session. Then a deal with Noise Records fell into their laps.
Their debut album, its release kick-starting 1988, was a headstrong mixture of snarling riffs and twisted, sore-headed vocals, nailed down hard over rhythms that refused to come meekly to heel. “History Of A Time To Come” rewrote the British entry in the hallowed book of Thrash, roaring Sabbat’s individuality with lungs of solid steel.
Now comes their second album, the extravagantly-titled “Dreamweaver (Reflections Of Our Yesterdays)”, crafted wholly in Noise’s home city of Berlin, and produced, once again, by Roy Rowland.
“Dreamweaver…” has seen Sabbat achieve a new maturity: in their music, and through a hardening of resolve and attitude.
All but gone is the naïvete and youthful enthusiasm noted in previous dialogues, and in its place comes a realisation and acceptance of music business protocol.
But the learning process has been painful for Sabbat. At one point during my short stay with guitarist Andy Sneap and vocalist Martin Walkyier at Berlin’s Hansa Studios, Andy confided that things had gotten so difficult during recording that the band had become convinced that someone had put a curse on them.
At one point, Martin and Andy had even talked of splitting the band.

Martin (v), Frazer (b), Simon (d), Andy (g) and Simon (g)

Yet in spite of – or perhaps because of – its teething troubles, “Dreamweaver…” has more of a groove to it than its predecessor.
It’s no more commercial nor easy on the ears than “HOATTC”, but the thing really flows, the harsh edges battered brutally smooth.
It’s still uniquely Sabbat of course – the Exodus and Mercyful Fate influences are still in evidence – but the saw-edged riffs now snuggle together much more tightly, often bringing bands like Testament sharply into focus.
Martin Walkyier sinks into the sofa and smiles the smile of a contented man.
“I’m very pleased with “Dreamweaver…”. It has better lyrics, better production, better arrangements. There’s a lot more power to it, and it’s a lot deeper.”
“It’s got a few more hooks in the riffing, it’s a bit more catchy”, offers Andy Sneap. “The riffs are more mature too.”
The sound is fuller as well, and more, well…Moshy this time around. “History…” ultimately lacked that “big sound”, and Andy’s guitar too often sounded weak. But on “Dreamweaver…” there is no such problem.
“To me, “History…” sounds a little dated, Andy agrees. “We’ve used some different techniques on this one. On the first one we got all the sounds in a day-and-a-half with nine days recording back to back. This one we spent six-and-a-half weeks getting the basics and it shows.”
The addition of second guitarist Simon Jones (although the band still call him Jack Hammer, his alter-ego in former band Holosade) has granted Sabbat more width.
“Dreamweaver…”, ambitiously, is a concept affair, telling of the struggle between Paganism and Christianity. Paganism was spread to this country from Europe when the Anglo-Saxons colonised England. Christianity spread into the north of England around 950AD and slowly worked its way south, suppressing the Pagan religion as it went.
The “Dreamweaver…” story, part based on the 1983 book “The Way Of Wyrd” by Brian Bates, is set a thousand years ago yet carries a message that is still relevant. It’s Sabbat’s favourite theme of the Christian Church’s unbelievably arrogant belief that it has Divine Right over everything.
In the “Dreamweaver…” story, the Christian monks send a missionary called Brand to the south of England to learn about Pagan ways so that the Pagans can be converted into Christianity. In the end, Brand learns that Christianity isn’t the only path.
The album exudes a message of tolerance to others; a message that certainly doesn’t restrict itself merely to beliefs.
“Quite a few people were saying to me, “You’ve gotta read “The Way Of Wyrd”, but I never had the time”, Martin explains. “After we did “History Of A Time To Come” I got around to reading it – and it blew me in. It carries the same message that we’re trying to put across in our music. The rest of the band read the book and liked it too, so I suggested, “Why not do it as a loose concept?””

Martin, reading the book behind the Dreamweaver story.
So, without further ado, I’ll step quietly down and let Martin present a track-by-track breakdown of the story of Wyrd…

“It’s like another “Cautionary Tale” with me doing lots of different characters on it. The monks are talking in an abbey in the north of England, discussing the best way of converting Pagans in the south to Christianity.”

“Brand the priest decides to accept the quest and he sets sail for the south of England, around the coastline. This song is about his thought during the journey, thinking what he’s left behind and the perils that face him in the future…Did he do the right thing?”

“Brand lands on a foreign shore and the guide who is supposed to meet him isn’t there. Darkness descends, so Brand falls asleep on a pile of leaves and has a nightmare where he travels into the spirit world and generally has an awful time. One of the spirits he meets is a black horse’s head on a totem pole in a clearing in the forest. What” happening is that the spirits are checking him out before he can be allowed to learn the secrets of Wyrd.”

“The morning after his nightmare Brand meets his guide Wulf. Brand thinks that he is going to show him around. But Wulf is actually a Shaman priest who points out the error of Brand’s ways – “You’re going to replace our God with your God, and our priests with shaven-headed monks.” He also tells Brand that to truly learn about Shaman ways he has to meet the spirits face-to-face and learn for himself. The song is basically putting forward the Pagan point of view.
“This one took me three weeks to write – it’s 10 pages of writing. It’s such a good story that I wanted to do it justice”

“It’s about the spirits talking. Another “Horned Is The Hunter”; the spirits moaning afraid of the new ways, of being replaced. At the end of the song they steal Brand’s soul and he has to prepare himself for a journey into the spirit world to reclaim it.”

“”Wildfire” is about his journey into the spirit world. The title is nice and direct. It’s from a part when Brand dances naked between two fires called “Wildfires”.”

“In the spirit world Brand encounters his soul – and it’s a woman. She explains the way of Wyrd to him, everything that he wanted to know. It’s also a voyage of self-discovery as well as a mission to convert the Pagans.”

“That one only lasts about 20 seconds and it’ll be just a resume at the end.”

“That’s nothing to do with the actual concept, it’s just an extra track for the CD. It’s a guys suicide note – with “to whom it may concern” at the top. It’s very bitter and twisted, “In My Darkest Hour”, that sort of thing. I’m not making any judgements, it’s just how that person feels at the time. It’s a very personal song; I was feeling a bit down at the time and it was just something I felt that I had to write.”

So where do Sabbat go from here?
“I’ve got ideas for the next one and they’re a bit different”, Martin assures me. “They’ll be tackling present day subjects – maybe the nuclear problem – but from a different angle.”
Sabbat’s songs are notoriously difficult to get into, and those on “Dreamweaver…” are certainly no exception. Is that by accident or design?
“We don’t write for instant appeal,” explains Andy. “We don’t write straight forward four minutes tracks. We’ve got quite a set formula to write to. I try to get a basic set-up of eight to 10 riffs that flows together and then maybe fit a solo into it.”
“Our stuff has more lasting appeal”, Martin adds. “There’s a lot of Metal around at the moment that’s immediate, but with no lasting appeal. I think rock fans have more up here (stabs himself in the temple with his forefinger) than people give them credit for.”
“Dreamweaver” suffered from considerable problems during the recording, resulting in the release date getting put back as well as the rescheduling of Sabbat’s UK tour. What happened?
Andy sucks in his breath loudly: “Lots. Air conditioning, faulty Marshalls, tape machines eating tracks we’d finished, acoustics, headphone amplifiers, food poisoning, er…what else? Studio managers, microphones switching themselves on and off when they felt like it…”
And the problems weren’t restricted to the recording. The band were forced to scrap John Blanche’s original sleeve (Blanche painted the cover for “History…”) after he turned in a rather cartoony piece, Instead the band used Tim Beer, a newcomer with only a few magazine and book covers to his credit.
“He really saved us”, says Andy. “The cover got a lot of detail in it. It’s like the music – there’s things that you don’t see at first glance.”

As I touched on earlier, the emphasis of Sabbat certainly seems to have changed since I first met them, when they were four cute-faced innocents who had never even seen an Underground train before. And despite the addition of Simon “Jack” Jones, the band increasingly seem more and more a two-man effort. Is Sabbat really just the Sneap ‘n’ Walkyier show?
“It’s not the way we want it”, Andy stresses. “The whole thing is a band thing. It wouldn’t be Sabbat without any one of us, it’s just that Martin and I have the strongest personalities. Y’see, Martin is the theme behind the band and I’m basically the business head. Because of that, we’re the ones who know what to say in the interviews – but we never want it to become a two-man show.”