The Spirit of Sabbat

last edited 21/3/21

This page is my way of giving credit to those writers & artists who influences directly helped to shape the visual & lyrical spirit of SABBAT:



The book ‘Witches’ was critical in inspiring the spirit of the nascent band and even supplied the SABBAT name and the basic style of the logo:

“Well, we were basically a new band, which started us thinking about a new name. Andy’s mum lent me this book, ‘Witches’ by Erica Jong, which was a very influential book for Sabbat, and a lot of other thrash bands actually. I was reading it, because we’d decided to go with the paganism theme rather than Satanism. We used an image from it for our first demo cover. I was looking through it at rehearsal, talking about band names, and I saw something in the book that caught my eye and said, ‘What about Sabbat?’ Andy went away and did our logo, and even though it had a tail on it , it looked like how it’s written in the book.”

Andy: “Now why did we change the name to Sabbat? I had a witchcraft book…”
“Erica Jong, a book called ‘Witches’,” Martin remembers.
“That’s right! We liked the artwork in it.”
“Yeah the artwork was phenomenal. There was a chapter simply called ‘Sabbat’.”
“In fact,” muses Andy, “the way the logo is was a little like the way the heading was written. We didn’t think much about it, we just tried to find a name to fit with the image.”

Erica’s subject matter provided Martin with lyrical inspiration for SABBAT’s early songs including those on the first two demos and some of those on the first album

[ BATHORY fans may have noticed that although SABBAT changed the title of this to ‘For Those Who Died’ BATHORY kept it the same and both bands took inspiration for their songs directly from Erica’s poem of this title in this book.

The infamous BATHORY goat on the first album cover released the year before in 1984 was also based on an image by Jos Smith and found .. in this same book!
Whether any SABBAT band members had read of or heard BATHORY at this point I’ve no way of knowing. They’ve never to my knowledge cited them as an influence]


Joseph Smith created the many highly original and visually arresting illustrations throughout ‘Witches’ and it was one of them –

that was to be used as the basis of the ‘Fragments of a Faith Forgotten’ cover art by Rob –

The song ‘A Cautionary Tale’ was based on the play ‘The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus’ by Christopher Marlowe

The song ‘Behind The Crooked Cross’ was based on a book called ‘Hitler and the Age of Horus’ by Gerald Suster


Up until last night I was totally sure that John Blanche had died several years ago, and I so was quite confused to find out that he is actually still alive ! (Sorry John! Congrats on the resurrection!)

Alternate universes apart, it was John who, as art director of White Dwarf magazine, we have to thank for ‘Blood for the Blood God’ and of course it was John’s excellent iconic painting ‘Horned Is The Hunter’ that gave us not only the cover of ‘History Of A Time To Come’ but also the song title of one of my favourite Sabbat tracks


The first thing that strikes you about ‘History Of A Time To Come’ is the impressive cover. Painted by John Blanche of White Dwarf it is the perfect visual accompaniment to Sabbat’s sophisticated lyrical imagery.
“John is really into our ideas and wants to make the same kind of statement with his picture that we are doing with the music,” says Martin. “He has designed a character that can change and develop with out ideas in the future. ” Eventually, if the album does well, then I’ll get a costume like the character on the cover.” The character concerned is a wild-eyed Shaman Priest, crouching on an outcrop behind a rich yellowing tome. His arms are thrust outward from his wasted pale-skinned frame in a futile gesture of defiance, an extravagant untamed blond mane reaching frantically across the sky behind him. Yet the illustration is far, far more than merely that. Each aspect of the character is symbolic, raising constant references to Martin’s expressive lyrics. The cover is the conceptual hook upon which much of Sabbat’s diverse imagery is hung, the themes behind songs like ‘For Those Who Died’, ‘Horned Is The Hunter’ and ‘Behind The Crooked Cross’ being reflected in the artwork.
“The character represents a combination of Christ, the Anti-Christ and someone we call the Techno-Christ,” explains Martin.”He has antlers on his head which symbolises the Lord of Nature, and a black crown of thorns to represent both Christ and the Anti-Christ. Although there is no cross, he is standing with his arms outstretched to symbolise the crucifixion. He is also wearing a sort of half-mask with pipes coming out of it to show that he is not just a character of the past and of the present, but of the future as well; an eternal character.
“He is dressed in tattered robes – like the ones that Christ was actually crucified in rather than the nice red ones he is often depicted as wearing – to show that the true ways are not through riches but through spiritual well-being. In front of his feet there is a richly-bound book, but the pages are blank to symbolise the worthlessness of the written word, the Bible in particular. And there is a cut across the pages of the book which is starting to bleed, symbolising the blood that has been shed in the name of Christianity.”


Brian Bates on wikipedia

“[…] I was fascinated to read how people had come to The Way of Wyrd via this heavy-metal band. I didn’t know them at all, just heard that they had been inspired by the book and their record company sent me some copies of the album (as it still was in those days of turntables, only 17 years ago). I too thought Martin Walkyer’s lyrics were superb. […]”

What have you got to tell us about your new album, “Dreamweaver (Reflections of our Yesterdays)”? “It’s a concept album,” Martin takes up. “It’s based on a book called ‘The Way of Wyrd’ by an American author named Brian Bates. It’s about a Christian missionary in the North of England who, a thousand years ago, is sent down to the South of England to learn about the pagan ways and in doing so determine the best way in which they can convert the pagans to Christianity. Having taken on this mission, he travels down south expecting to find a guide waiting for him. The first night in the wood, where this meeting is to take place, no one turns up and he’s left there on his own.
That night he has a nightmare and that’s when the story really begins.”

I can recall talking to you at the beginning of last year when you had just started to read “The Way of Wyrd”. I can remember you enthusing about it then. So how long has this concept been on the boil? “About a year,” says Martin. “As soon as I’d read the book I knew it would come out in some form of our music.”

“Originally we were going to spread the concept over one side,” adds Andy. Have you had to fit any songs into the concept? “No. They were all written with the concept in mind,” answers Andy again.

I think it would be a good idea to talk us through all of the songs. “First track, side one is ‘The Clerical Conspiracy’,” states the singer. “That deals with the monks in the abbey deciding who they’re going to send on the quest. The next track is ‘Advent of Insanity’ where the missionary departs for the South by ship and as he’s sailing along he’s thinking about was he’s undertaken and wondering if he’s equal to the task that has been set for him. Seeds of doubt are sown in his mind. Third track is ‘Do Dark Horses Dream of Nightmares?’ and this is where he arrives in search of his guide in the woods. It also deals with his bad dream where the spirits come to him and in effect they’re checking him out to find out how he’s going to use the information he gathers.”

In relation to the album concept, what exactly is this information going to be used for? “The spirits try to work out whether he is trying to destroy the old Gods,” Martin explains. “The story asks if he is trying to impose the new religion upon them. The next track is ‘The Best of Enemies’ where he finally meets his guide the following morning. The guide who’s name is Wolf, tells him of the pagan ways and starts to rebuke the ideas of the missionary. He asks ‘By what right do you come here to impose a new faith upon people who have been living like this for thousands of years?’ There’s now a questioning, why do Christians want to change the ways of nature and the way people live in this part of the world? In this song the guide tells him if he really wants to learn then he can’t just tell him about the spirits and the spirit world, he has to encounter that for himself and has to meet the spirits face to face. He says that the spirits will give him all the knowledge he wants, but only if he has the conviction to go through with it. He has to actually risk his own death in meeting the spirits, that’s the end of side one.”

And side two… “‘How the Mighty Have Fallen’ is the opening track on this side,” Martin continues. “This track is basically the spirits having a good moan about how they’ve been forgotten and that they know that they are about to be replaced. Their days are numbered but they won’t go down without a fight. This is also where the priest first encounters the spirits. The next track is ‘Wildfire’ which we’ve been playing live for quite some time now.”

“‘Wildfire’ is when the priest journeys to the spirit world. The next one is ‘Mythistory’. The guide tells him of the preparations he must undergo to meet the spirits, but he deviates from what he’s been told and the spirits come too soon, stealing his soul. He has two days in which to recover his soul or his lifeforce will ebb out. In fact, he journeys to the spirit world before he is ready to do so. In ‘Mythistory’ he encounters his own soul which is a woman. He doesn’t know that he has met his own soul and tells the woman he has come to learn the way of the wyrd and the power of nature. She tells him to look no further for she is his soul and on returning to the material world he’ll know anything he wanted to know.”

“The last song is a short one called ‘Happy Never After’ which is a basic conclusion to the story. At the end the priest decides not go back North but instead to travel and learn about the pagan ways.”

John was the band’s first choice when it was time for the cover artwork of Dreamweaver, but things didn’t quite work out too well in that regard…

Thanks lots to Nazgul for letting me know that this image is online at realmofchaos80s



We didn’t only have problems with the recording of this LP but also with the artwork.
John Blanche, who painted our first cover was again asked by us to paint the sleeve for Dreamweaver. We gave John a clear description of what we wanted three months in advance. So we waited and waited…….. and waited, all we got was “don’t worry, everything’s under control”. So four days before we went into the studio we went to inspect the finished cover. To be kind shall we say it was the sort of thing that would have been passable on a kiddies fantasy/story tale book, not a SABBAT album.
FINE! we all said, and left, it was then down to me to tell John we didn’t want to use it, all credit to John he was OK about this. We were then stuck in a bit of a situation, about to leave the country and no cover, the last thing we wanted was to work with a German artist because of the language barrier. So Andrew at Noise UK did his bit and put us in touch with an artist in London called Tim Beer. Not having a great deal of choice we let Tim do the artwork as he seemed to understand what we wanted, we shouldn’t have worried, Tim has done us proud. Great we thought all problems solved… Nope. We had a German company doing the logo, layout, typesetting etc for the cover. Can you imagine the amount of spelling mistakes with Martins style of lyric writing, the lyrics incidentally are having to be printed on a gatefold lyric sheet because of the amount! Also the logo was the wrong colour, this was due to a misunderstanding, nobody’s fault in particular, so good ol’Timbo painted one for us in a day. AND THEN we saw the back cover.
The photos were all wrong, so they had to be changed after much discussion with Noise.


Tim very cleverly incorporated John’s ‘Horned Is The Hunter’ as the Woden of ‘The Way Of Wyrd’

He also brilliantly re-imagined a darker version of the spirit for the cover of ‘The End of The Beginning’ with an intrigingly ambiguous reflection-or-tear in the right eye:

[All three of these covers failed to get the picture disc treatment they always deserved, another sales opportunity missed by Noise]

So far I haven’t been able to find out anything about Tim as I’ve only found one ‘Tim Beer UK Artist’ on t’interweb and I don’t think it is the same guy as there is no mention of the SABBAT images in his past works.

Unfortunately Tim then lost the plot entirely with the abysmally awful ‘Mourning Has Broken’ cover which had all the visual appeal of the East Berlin car-park it resembled and made John’s Dreamweaver cover look not-so-rushed-actually in comparison. In the days when most fans bought an lp over a cd or tape to get the bigger sleeve and only got to actually hear an album after they’d bought it and taken it home, it was a colossal marketing blunder by Noise to put such a crap MHB cover up against its competitive new half-brother – the really excellent cover of the debut SKYCLAD offering by Garry Sharpe-Young.  After being urged by the UK music press who portrayed Martin as the good guy and Ritchie Desmond as the interloper, thousands of SABBAT fans, myself included, who were unsure about whether to fork out for both of these albums or just one, took a good look at both sleeves and then put MHB back on the record store shelves and paid out for ‘Wayward Sons of Mother Earth’ instead.

So SABBAT was no longer SABBAT, but SKYCLAD wasn’t SABBAT either. In carving out a new folk-metal genre for itself it left behind the blacker roots of SABBAT at exactly the same time when elsewhere in the extreme music scene, those very roots were fast becoming The Next Big Thing. The Norwegian church-burning black-metal rebirth was far closer in spirit to the darker original SABBAT inspiration than the lighter New-Age-pagan SKYCLAD would ever be.  After the black metal scene had passed through its various stages of cult-implosion-trend-farce, one UK band had turned bandwagon into commercial triumph- CRADLE OF FILTH. Probably the most reviled UK band since the Sex Pistols, COF had given Dani Filth a level of personal fortune rarely achieved in the UK metal scene. So although Martin tried with RETURN TO THE SABBAT to undo the damage of his original departure, it took Dani’s determination and skill at turning ‘sow’s ears into silk purses’ to finally re-ignite the black flame and get SABBAT’s ashen embers back alight again.

I’d love to know who it was that realised that the new SABBAT needed a new ‘Horned Is The Hunter’ and approached:


Neil Sims on The Clan Destined website

Neil also has a low internet profile these days but is on instagram as Neil Blackbird Sims

I’ve never been quite sure whether it was deliberate or accidental that the half-mask is the wrong way around in comparison with John and Tim’s renderings, but either way the stylish modern tattoo-&-t-shirt-ready design helped define the re-formed SABBAT from 2006-2010, appearing on the reissued HOATTC and DREAMWEAVER CD & LP face labels and numerous clothing, website and poster designs.

Also used to promote the ‘Mad Gods and Englishmen’ Tour was this 3D rendered image:

but this wasn’t done by Neil and as yet I haven’t been able to find out who put it together…

[answers on a postcard etc etc]