Nuclear War Now! continues its ongoing Sabbatical proliferation campaign with these first three installments in a series of cassette releases from the infamous purveyors of Japanese blacking metal. Included in this initial wave of cassettes are the band’s first three full-length albums: “Envenom” (1991), “Evoke” (1992), and “Disembody” (1993). Originally released by Gezol’s own Evil Records, all three have since been reissued numerous times by several different labels each, but with inconsistent quality of presentation. As with its Sabbat vinyl reissues, NWN! has opted to retain the original cover art from the Evil Records CDs, and the layout is reminiscent of those from classic Combat and Neat Records tape releases. These three albums track Sabbat’s ascent following its legendary first five seven-inch EPs and early demos, a path which included founding member and original guitarist Elizaveat’s magnum opus performance on “Envenom,” followed by the recruitment and involvement of his heir, Temis Osmond, on “Evoke” and “Disembody.” This transition was marked by a shift away from the NWOBHM-inspired songwriting embraced by Elizaveat and towards the somewhat less conventional guitar work of Temis Osmond. In the next installment, NWN! will continue this cassette series by releasing the aforementioned first five EPs, each in its own edition, thereby once again fulfilling the goal of making these seminal recordings available and more accessible on another format.
(Description by C. Conrad for the vinyl version so some details may not be relevant)
Over the course of the label’s history, few bands have earned and received a level of support from Nuclear War Now! comparable to that of the legendary Sabbat. The long-term mutual respect between label and band culminated in the 2014 box set, “Sabbatical Earlyearslaught,” which compiled both the seminal and previously-unreleased recordings of the band and its previous incarnations from its inception up to the release of its first album, “Envenom,” from 1991. Since then, NWN! has begun the endeavor or releasing Sabbat’s subsequent early albums on LP format for the American market with particular attention paid to maintaining the authentic spirit of the original CD releases from Gezol’s own label, Evil Records, beginning with the January 2018 reissue of “Envenom.” Now, approximately one year later, NWN! proudly presents the vinyl reissue of the band’s second album, “Evoke,” originally released in 1992. As was done with “Envenom,” no consideration has been overlooked in representing the recording as faithfully as possible to the band’s original vision, both musically and aesthetically. Once again, Gezol has arranged the track order in a way that optimizes the album’s release on three sides of a double LP, leaving the fourth side adorned with a silkscreened image of Sabbat’s inimitable artwork from the era.
Although the similarities to its predecessor and earlier recordings are unmistakable, “Evoke” also distinguished itself as a clearly new step in the band’s evolution. Most notably, founding member and original guitarist, Elizaveat, had decided to leave Sabbat permanently during the band’s recording hiatus of the late-1980s, though he returned for his swan song on “Envenom.” During this transitional period prior to the first album, Sabbat found its replacement for Elizaveat in Temis Osmond, who was invited to contribute a keyboard intro and outro for “Envenom,” as well as the guitar solo in one song, at the invitation of Elizaveat himself. On “Evoke,” Temis Osmond officially assumed the full-time guitar duties vacated by Elizaveat, which is evident not only in his style of playing, but also in a shift in songwriting tendencies that is demonstrated on this second album. With Elizaveat on guitar, Sabbat’s music had been more heavily influenced by the NWOBHM movement and Venom in particular. Beginning with Temis Osmond’s influence on “Evoke,” song compositions became somewhat more varied and less reliant on the formulas established by traditional heavy metal and perpetuated by the NWOBHM. Elements of the style adopted by Elizaveat are still present on many of the individual riffs, but multiple progressions within a song are somewhat less predictable and more complex, involving scales upon which more exotic riffs and solos are constructed.
In addition to this shift in songwriting, “Evoke” is also characterized by greater variation in Gezol’s vocal styles. Although the band’s mastermind had been known previously to alternate between lower, growled vocals and high-pitched falsettos, he predominately employed the former on “Envenom,” with the notable exception of the song “Carcassvoice,” where he utilized both in unison. On the other hand, on “Evoke” he moves more liberally between the different registers and includes whispered vocals (see “Hellhouse”) and even somewhat cleaner and more melodic vocals on “Beyond the River.”
These differences with the previous album aside, “Evoke” is anything but an aberration in Sabbat’s development. Instead, it would be more accurately interpreted as a transitional work that began cementing the dynamic among these three members that would endure for almost two decades. As such, it is appropriate that it once again be made available as both an essential archive in Sabbat’s history and also as a monument that reflects the admiration that the band continues to demand worldwide.