On June 1, I was fortunate to be present at the 300-capacity Studio at Webster Hall (which meets with my highest watering-hole approval by being located in a basement) for an especially electric presentation of occult heavy rock by the unlikely match-up of psychedelic folk-metal act Sabbath Assembly and gleefully Satanic retro-rockers Ghost (previously discussed during Tenebrous Music Week). What might seem an odd pairing wound up being a downright and thoroughly excellent live music experience.
In re-working the music of the Process Church of Final Judgement, a nihilistic Age of Aquarius cult embracing the God/Satan-Light/Dark duality of Gnosticism, Sabbath Assembly creates a deeply moving, mystical brand of rock music. Vocalist Jex Thoth has a stunning, powerful voice that ranges from a delicate whisper to a pleading cry through songs that resonate with the power of invocation. Sabbath Assembly's elegant melodies have a poignancy to them that creates a real emotional resonance--something that was entirely unexpected and proved to be a nice counterpoint to Ghost's satirical take on ritual music. For a deeper look at Sabbath Assembly, check out this interview on ARTISTDirect and watch this recent live footage:
Ghost could easily be the kind of band whose schtick outpaces their musical chops, but my world is an infinitely finer place because they back up a ridiculous concept with catchy hooks and wicked wit. How else to explain a song titled "Prime Mover" which references--and inverts--the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, all while keeping heads banging and fists pumping? The concept of the band, that the members are anonymous Satanists bent on corrupting the minds of rock-loving youths, requires buy-in from the crowd, and they had that sealed from the first appearance of the censer-swinging vocalist, clad in his Satanic Papal finery.
As absurd spectacles go, this was a very fine showing, culminating in an inspired Beatles cover and the sharing of Communion wine with lucky cultists at center stage. I'm hesitant to spoil the surprises of Ghost's stage show, but I encourage fans and other curious parties to check out the band's official website, as they've announced a full North American tour this Fall (supported by Alcest and Enslaved).