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Sabbath Assembly - Ye Are One [Svart Records/The Ajna Offensive - 2012]

For Dave Nuss, Sabbath Assembly's drummer, producer and only constant, the Process Church's synthesis of God and Satan (as well as Jehovah and Lucifer) reconciles the difficult duality he developed as a child, reared in Southern Texas by a staunch Calvinist family while falling in love with heavy metal and its candid demonic cabaret.

And yet the music offered here that carries the mysterious Church's hymns, derived in part from scant written documentation, is developed by Nuss and his recruits to sound more like sixties pop psych with christian rock trimmings, a kind of Godspell-meets-Jefferson Airplane, than the alt-Catholic Mass or distorted, thrashing catharsis you might have expected. But while this confused revivalism made their first album, Restored to One, at least a toe-tapping dip in the heady waters of the sixties' counterculture, Ye Are One's songs are so many shades sweeter that the album has a wholly mainstream mindset that jars with the hymns' original outsider philosophies.

Most tracks are based around a bright and polite pluck and strum of acoustic guitar over which new vocalist, Jamie Myers, seductively sings. The opening number, 'Let Us All Give Praise And Validation', layers her voice into a full-blown chorus before Genesis P-Orridge pops up, the first of many times, to narrate a liturgical text. While his excursions are probably the closest this disk has to offer to an actual Process ceremony, and by far the eeriest element here, they sit unnaturally with the happy-clappiness.

So as the album progresses we're reminded less of 'Restored to One's acid rock and Russ Meyer soundtracks, and more of Andrew Lloyd-Webber musicals, like on 'Bless Our Lord And Master' which sounds like Evanescence attempting Jesus Christ Superstar, or the cod gospel of 'Exit' replete with FM radio-friendly guitar solo.

'We Give Our Lives' feels more fragile and fervent though, with its stripped-back, creepy acid folk manoeuvres; and the call-and-response section of 'In the Time of Abaddon II' that sees P-Orrdige's "high-priestess" sermonise to what could be old recordings of a flocked chorus is particularly effective in setting a chilling scene of devout servitude.

However, it's telling that the final track is the most affecting. 'Transcendence' is a short, unaccompanied reading of Church-leader Robert de Grimston's 'Gods on War' text by Timothy Wyllie, himself an ex-member of the Process Church. His lightly plummy English accent perfectly suits the eccentric evangelism. Indeed, to an unbeliever's ears, the Church's East-meets-West words concerning the resolution of Christ and Satan through love certainly hold enough idiosyncratic socio-historical sway to encourage further reading. But by getting mashed-up with unoriginal accompaniments full of hippie pop nostalgia any serious sense of what it was to be part of the church is lost in the pomp. For the most part it feels more like an overfamiliar soundtrack to a Glee-style 'Cult Religion -The Musical', not entirely a bad proposition, but something much more enticing to watch than just listen.

Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5

Russell Cuzner
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