History of a Time to Come

Sabbat

Review score: 80%

Review Date: May 2014
Reviewer: Paul Jack
Source: Rock Hard Reviews
(www.rockhardreviews.com)

Amazon UK: Buy CD | Buy MP3 / Amazon US: Buy CD

Thrash metal. Write about a thrash metal album, they said, but don't pick one of the big four bands. Pick something I haven't heard of.

Hmm. A thrash album or band that our young-ish editor hasn't heard of. Shouldn't be too hard a challenge. I'll have a fumble through ye olde storeroom of ancient rock and see what falls out from under all those cobwebs. Then... muffled grunts and the sound of cardboard boxes ripping.

Hey, that one looks like a Games Workshop magazine cover. Aha, I remember these guys - goold old Andy Sneap and Martin Walkyier's band Sabbat. Aren't they the ones who did that plastic record cover flexi-disk for White Dwarf magazine sometime back in the 19th century or something? Let's have a closer look at this 'un.

History of a Time to Come. Yeah, I do remember this stuff. Proper English Thrash Metal. I'm gonna reflect upon my yesterdays and write about this Sabbat beauty. And beauty if an appropriate word to throw around when describing the cover art, which is a labour of love. You can tell this is an old school metal album by the effort put into the pagan artwork.

It's Sabbat's debut album, which came out snarling in 1988 or thereabouts. But if you search hard enough you might just track down the 2008 remastered version which has a nicer remix plus bonus live tracks etc. All good stuff.

As a vintage example of English thrash metal, Sabbat stand tall. There's not a duff track here. History of a Time to Come opens with a haunting intro which leads us into A Cautionary Tale. "Bell, book and candle" growls Martin Walkyier in this retelling of the grim legend of Faust, the story of a soul-selling doctor and his deal with Mephistopheles.

Next up we have Hosana In Excelcis, a satanic thrash metal number. Thematically not a million miles from Mercyful Fate but with crunchier, raw speed metal twerk. Lyrics are pretty much guaranteed to offend your grandparents, hark the fallen angels sing and all that. But Hosanna is a tight hardcore thrash blast from Sabbat. I seem to recall Martin once saying that this track is based upon the Book of Revelations and the last conflict between heaven and hell.

Behind the Crooked Cross is a masterpiece of criticism of fascism, with rasping lyrics intertwined with occult themes. Powerhouse guitar riffs pound away at you. The theme reminds me of those 1970s and 80s paperbacks about Hitler being influenced by the supernatural - astrology, prophecy, magic with and without a k and so on.

And so we reach Horned is the Hunter, a personal favourite of mine. A sweet n gentle acoustic intro lures you in, just so that stuttering hearbeat drums can distract you before thunderous guitar slaps you upside the head. Released at a time when Robin of Sherwood and Herne the Hunter we still fresh in public memory, Horned is the Hunter tells the story of a conquered Pan, once mighty, now brooding but not yet beaten. This track is a clear example of Martin's clever and evocative writing style, conjuring up images of darkly angered pagan power dwelling in the greenwood, which is being destroyed by 'progress'.

I for an Eye tells the story of Lucifer from the point of view of a fallen angel cast aside by an uncaring heaven. Sympathy for the Devil this is not. It is a fast and furious thrash blast to lose yourself in amongst a crashing tide of electric fury and growling resentment at mistreatment.

Next up is another thrash masterpiece, For Those Who Died. The spoken intro will take you by surprise, but sets the courtroom scene of a heretic being sentenced to burn without fair trial. Almost commercial sounding guitar riffs pour in, soon to step up in to raw and crunchy riffwork. The protagonist is portrayed as the victim of the old European witch-burning judges, suffering for continuing to practice the old pagan religion. It's a proper catchy thrash track, a little raw and rough around the edges and definitely worth playlisting.

Instrumental metal number A Dead Man's Robe is the penultimate track from the original album, which finished with The Church Bizarre, a wonderfully entertaining rant about corrupt organised religion and obsession with a lust for filthy lucre under the guise of buying salvation. Offensive maybe, angry definitely, a scathing metal rampage which brought the original album release to a close with happy clappy humour.

And now we have the bonus tracks, but first a word about sound quality. The original CD release of History of a Time to Come was a bit quiet, which was fairly common on 1980s CDs. This re-release fixes that. There are five bonus live tracks, Hosanna in Excelsis, Behind the Crooked Cross, I For an Eye, For Those Who Died and the Church Bizarre. All make a worthy addition to the album. For those who still have the original CD release there is enough here to justify upgrading to this re-release.

Conclusion

Track this one down metalheads, buy a copy while you can! It's in danger of becoming a lost classic and face it, History of a Time to Come was a step forwards in the evolution of English thrash metal and deserves a place in your collection.

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Track List (may vary)

  • Intro
  • A Cautionary Tale
  • Hosanna In Excelsis
  • Behind The Crooked Cross
  • Horned Is The Hunter
  • I For An Eye
  • For Those Who Died
  • A Dead Man's Robe
  • The Church Bizarre
  • Hosanna In Excelsis
  • Behind The Crooked Cross
  • I For An Eye
  • For Those Who Died
  • The Church Bizarre