SABBAT – War Games
Metal Forces, Issue 25 (1987)
Anyone wandering around Nottingham on a crowded Saturday afternoon could be forgiven for thinking Americana reigns supreme in Robin Hood land. Sure, there’s a healthy plethora of rock fans roaming the streets (usually on their way to / on their way back from Way Ahead Records, Notts equivalent of London’s Shades) but the disturbing frequency of Dokken, Ratt, Poison etc t-shirts is worrying. Why this crass obsession with LA?
Anyway, one band who you’ll never spot with regulation Mötley Crüe hairdo is Sabbat. Maybe the thrashers shun the sunlight, but they sure as hell make their presence felt in the smaller hours. Sabbat’s last home gig in the town hall square drew for a 1,000 plus of the blighters.
A good a point as any to open an interview with I think. So tell us about that last bash Andy (as in Sabbat guitarist by the way. Mr. Sneap is joined by Martin Walkyier on vocals, Frazer Craske on bass and Simon Negus on drums).
“It was our biggest gig so far and it scared the shit out of us!” the guitarist readily admits. “The PA guy we use, Kev Jackson, also works for the council in organising this annual outdoor music festival. They have a few juvenile jazz acts and a few oompah bands, then round it off with a rock band. Now usually a band called Dawntrader do it, but the council wanted a change and asked Kev if he knew of another act that could pull a crowd, so we got the job! We pulled the second biggest crowd too after The Searchers who had a monopoly on the grannies.”
Now Sabbat have been operational for little over a year now, but it’s only lately that great mountain ranges of luck has been shoveled in their direction. It seems as though some vicious bastard downstairs has been jealously hoarding all this good fortune that by rights should have been evenly distributed to various bands over the last four years, and suddenly laid it all at the feet of Sabbat.
So why Sabbat? “I honestly don’t know,” Andy pleads. “It was just me sitting down and planning everything out. Five demos went to record companies to no response at all, and a load went to various fanzines here and abroad. I remember giving yourself a tape at that Chariot gig and after you’d written about us it all started to happen. Next Forearm Smash, who’d had the tape some time, picked up on us and then Kerrang!.”
Is it correct that Music For Nations regarded your songs as too long? “Well, what we got back off them was the standard photocopied rejection note. Y’know: ‘Dear Sir, we are not interested in your demo’. It’s funny, I know several bands who have received exactly the same letter, I know Deuce got one. Music For Nations are signing a lot of American thrash bands purely, I think, because their view is anything American will sell. Why don’t they put some effort into a good British band? Anyway, Noise Records did reply to the tape and asked for another demo. The end result of that of course is that we’ve signed and sealed everything with them and we’ll start recording our debut album on September 11th. In fact, Noise spent an extra 25% on getting our contract written up in English.”
Can you give any details on the album? “The title is History Of A Time To Come. It sounds like one of those silly concept albums but it’s not. It’ll be recorded at the Horus Sound Studio in Hannover and will be produced by Roy Rowland, in Berlin. All the tracks from the Fragments Of A Faith Forgotten demo will be on it and also ‘The Thirteenth Disciple’, from the Friday Rock Show session, plus other tracks such as ‘A Church Bizarre’, ‘I For An Eye’, ‘Behind The Crooked Cross’ and the instrumental ‘A Dead Man’s Robe’.”
As well as the album, you’re also recording a flexi-disc for the dungeons and dragons magazine White Dwarf. A strange move? “Yeah, it is a bit weird I suppose! What happened was that John Blanche, the art editor of White Dwarf, had been looking for a band to do a flexi-disc for a long time. He just happened to hear our session and then got in touch. We’re recording it with Pete Tattershall and the song is based on one of their games called Warhammer. Martin wrote the lyrics and now it’s called ‘Blood For The Blood God’. The mag just gave Martin a big pile of books and he wrote the song from that. It’s not your usual horror type metal and the lyrics fit in very well with our imagery.”
The Nottingham area also laid claim to Hell, a band who unfortunately I never got to see. If Harry Harrison from Rebel is to be believed, a fairly spectacular band. Would you say that Sabbat are carrying on the Hell tradition? “We are heavily influenced by Hell and don’t mind admitting it,” Andy says with obvious admiration. “The singer even taught me how to play guitar! We’re not a deliberate copycat of Hell in any way though. They were a great band and it’s a mystery to me why they never got anywhere. To be compared to them we don’t mind in the least, we would take it more as an honour than anything. We’ve just done a charity show at Trent Poly dedicated to Hell’s guitarist Dave Halliday, who committed suicide in January. All the money went to his favourite charity, Cancer Research.”
For those that haven’t yet seen you, could you describe a Sabbat show? “We try to be a visual experience as well as a musical one, which is why we have the exploding shield and other silly things. Martin has recently started to act out bits too. Sabbat aren’t a ripped t-shirt sort of band; we like to put on a show.”
Is there any crossover from the rock audience at your gigs, or is it all thrashers? “Standard rock fans I guess. There are more thrash fans in the area now which is good, but we don’t get any spiky haired glam fans at our gigs! I suppose a Sabbat fan is just your average nutter!”
Don’t you find it sad that rock as a whole is breaking into factions like glam fans, thrash fans, hardcore etc? “No definitely not! We don’t want glams at our gigs thank you!”
Let’s backtrack to that infamous demo, Fragments Of A Faith Forgotten. Did it really cost £10? “Yes, honestly! We did it with Glynn Hather on a four-track just to see what we sounded like and we thought afterwards ‘Hey, this is quite good, let’s use it!’. We just got lucky I suppose; Hell spent £100 on their demo which was awful.”
The packaging for the tape is more elaborate than your run of the mill UK demo. “At the time we thought it was what everyone did! Since then, everyone has been saying how good it was which surprised us. I don’t understand why other bands don’t do it. Surely it’s common sense?”
How do you feel Nottingham’s rock scene is faring these days? To me the city always seems to have more rock fans per square inch than any other place I’ve been. “True, there are a lot of people here into rock, but the band scene is shit. I saw a band called Heavy Duty who were okay; the music wasn’t brilliant but they could have done a lot more… your classic ripped t-shirt band. If band’s like that put some thought into what they were doing, they’d get a lot further. There’s also Deuce and other US-influenced bands like Sleazepatrol, but there’s not much to them really; nothing an American band can’t do 100 times better.
“Nationwide, thrash isn’t given much encouragement and there aren’t many bands doing anything. The best know I suppose are ourselves and Onslaught. There’s also Atomkraft, Deathwish and Sacrilege, but most of these bands are ex-punks turned metal. It’s all dead end stuff, because the punks don’t like them anymore and metal fans don’t like them because they used to be punks!”
You stated in your first biography that Sabbat have a lot more to offer than your Venom’s and Mercyful Fate-type bands. Sabbat’s lyrics convey an open sympathy with Paganism and the practice of black arts. So are you a ‘real’ black metal band? “I think it’s just the imagery we’re using, but Martin and Frazer are very much into the occult. We try to explore these things with intelligence and a little more depth than Mercyful Fate used to, or Exodus for example. All these so called black metal bands seem obsessed with Satan’s legions marching from hell. A lot of band’s lyrics really dig at Martin. We write about interesting subjects; we haven’t got any songs about bombing down the highway!”
Surely though, the whole sphere of activities associated with the occult contain certain practices that you just could not get away with putting into print in the context of a song? “Actually, Martin has got very near the edge with a song called ‘Behind The Crooked Cross’, which deals with Hitler and his dealings with the occult. There are certain sections dealing with Hitler’s ideas on racial purity that Noise may well ask us to change.”
You would readily censor your own songs? “Not really censor, subtle changes maybe, do it in a clever way. Personally, I regard Hitler as a bad thing altogether. You’ll really have to talk to Martin about all this!”
Which I was going to, and lo and behold Martin phoned me the next day. So on with the conversation.
So let’s delve a little deeper into the song ‘Behind The Crooked Cross’. Martin takes up the meaning of the song: “I don’t actually mention different races or anything against them, but the whole subject of Hitler is obviously very touchy; more so as we are on a German record company! What the song deals with is the question, was Hitler a madman or a magician?”
What’s your view on that theory? “I think he was obviously a madman. It’s based on a book, Hitler And The Age Of Horus. It’s not a statement or anything like that.”
Mmm, quite ironic that Sabbat record their first album at Horus studios no less! Whilst we are on the question of magicians (or not as the case may be), how would you view a figure such as Gilles de Rais? Mad or magician (for those not in the know, Gilles de Rais’ pursuit of alchemy led him into the black arts and with it the sodomising and murder of countless children. Nice chap!)? “Definitely mad! From what I gather, he got lead astray a bit. My interests are in real magic, the force of will over natural powers and people like Crowley and Eliphas Lévi.”
But surely ‘black’ magic always leads to acts of bestiality of some description, and even murder? Are they separable? “I think they are; it’s not necessary to kill children or whatever to perform magic. Sabbat’s interests are just in fascinating subjects in general really, and of course magic is the most incredible subject of all. We aren’t Satanists at all; we just write about interesting things.”
Well, Martin and I discussed this a bit further and no doubt we’ll discuss it in further depth at a later stage. If you feel a little cheated at the abrupt curtailment of our conversation, well – sorry, but there are things better left unsaid. Martin does have a genuine interest in what he writes about and I’m not the type of journalist that needs to pretend he knows more than he actually does and humiliates someone in the process (King Dickson? Ha! Ha!).
Anyone that knows me will tell you in no uncertain terms that I loathe thrash with a vengeance, so why the Sabbat feature? I believe Sabbat are the right age to develop into a very special metal band (Andy is only 18, and by the time he’s 20 he’ll be tripping over his hair!). Sabbat’s lyrics are nothing short of superb, so now all Martin needs to do is learn how to sing! I mean, these guys can actually arrange songs!
The album should be out toward the end of the year, so damn well buy it! A thrash band with brains. Whatever next? Dave Reynolds in the Betty Ford clinic?
Interview taken from Metal Forces, Issue 25 (1987)
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