Irrelevant Troubadour

Sabbath Assembly, Restored to One
March 8, 2011, 5:23 pm
Filed under: music

We have gathered here today to give praise unto our Lord the TV Tropes Album Exchange Club.  Our sermon today concerns Sabbath Assembly’s album Restored to One.  Let us pray.

Reading criticism of this album,  the main question people have about this is, “Is this for real?” My answer: kinda. The question remains, though: what would posses a bunch of psych-rock nerds to cover the hymns of an obscure 60s and 70s religious movement?

One thing this album is most emphatically not is a hipster piss-take. Even if Sabbath Assembly perhaps doesn’t respect the content of these songs (more on that later), they certainly respect the music. The thing that grabs me most about this music is that, for an album of quasi-satanic hymns by people who’ve been involved with Sunn O))), No-Neck Blues Band, and Six Organs of Admittance, this album is remarkably normal-sounding. It’s got some psychedelic tinges, such as the raga rhythms on “Glory to the Gods in the Highest” and the queasy organ on “The Power that is Love”, but mostly these songs are backed with a pretty standard pop-rock sound. The vocals, though powerful, sound almost syrupy-sweet. Yet that adds some power to this album, I feel; had it been loaded down with a bunch of drone and psychedelic effects, the album would’ve come off as trying too hard. Instead, the music is allowed to breathe and to assert itself, and it benefits from it.

Besides, the inherent strangeness of adapting hymns to a rock format is psychedelic enough as it is, giving the entire affair a very devotional air (as I’m sure was the original intention). Indeed, these are some damn catchy hymns, and it’s good that Sabbath Assembly saved this music from languishing in obscurity. This album is, if nothing else, a great historical document.

That, in fact, is this album’s main problem: it has trouble becoming more than a catchy historical document. When singer JEX sings, “Recieve our devotion, Lord Satan, ” it really doesn’t feel to me like she’s actually devoted to Satan. This, for me, robs this album of a lot of its emotional content. Many of the previous reviewers I’ve read have talked about how creepy this album is to them, but I’m not hearing it. To me, this album is like looking at the gravestone of a stranger: you feel as if it’s an important symbol for someone evoking memories and emotions, but to you it’s just a stone with a name on it. For an album about orgiastic devotion to a deity, there is very little religious feeling—of any kind—to be had here.

Still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy this album. It’s great music. It just didn’t hit me, mainly I think because it didn’t hit the people making it.


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