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In Extremis

Positive Feedback: Cultus Sabbati Interviewed & Free Album Dowload
John Doran , February 9th, 2011 06:24

Mysterious occult dub, BM, power electronics trio Cultus Sabbati are offering their album Garden Of Forking Ways for free download. They leave John Doran with ringing ears

It's not often at Quietus Towers that we come across an album that threatens to sonically bully us into submission but that is nearly what happened when we first pressed play on Cultus Sabbati's Garden Of Forking Ways. Despite having an obvious black metal aesthetic and a raw DIY sound, it had more in common with occult noise projects such as Burial Hex, slacker Satanist stoners Sylvestre Anfang II, the tinitus engaging white noise of John Olson, the industrial dub of God and the harsh horrortronix of Gnaw Their Tongues.

Cultus Sabbati - Garden of Forking Ways by theQuietus

After enduring the album on one listen, getting used to it during a second and then growing fond of it during a third, I emailed my commissioning editor at Metal Hammer to alert him to its presence. Jonathan Selzer, a man so metal, he exists partially in a different dimension where volcanoes are 63% more active, described it as "bloodthirsty" and asked me to review it.

I realised I didn't know anything about the group at all and then started chatting to the band as a collective via email to find out more about their aesthetic... if not them. During the conversation, they offered to give away their album for free as a download to our readers.

I've been trying to review your album for Metal Hammer and I've just realised that there is no information on your website... Even if you're totally anonymous, the merest morsels that you're prepared to give me would be appreciated, so I can get some context.

Cultus Sabbati: In the context of Cultus Sabbati we have chosen to remain as anonymous as possible for various reasons. We feel that the music should be the focal point of this group, not the 'personalities' involved. We don't want to bring in any preconceived notions about what we are doing (especially from other projects we are involved with).

What is your set up?

CS: We are a trio. Electronics, guitar, vocals. We approach music making from a ritual perspective. Below is the official press blurb for Garden of Forking Ways: 'Black magic and music have a long history, one that predates our modern era of music cultures and subcultures. Centuries ago it was the music of those witches' orgies, midnight sabbats and 'primitive' ceremonies that were feared by the pious churchgoers and their clergy owners. Dark rhythms that come in the night, screeching voices and half heard whispers, unknown secrecies and untold doings under the moon.

In Cultus Sabbati ritual is once more joined to the making of music. Amplifiers become the cauldrons for these modern men of the cunning arts. Triumvirate, they forge sounds in the fire of unreason. Burning bright they sacrifice themselves on the sonic altar. With hidden faces they create work as old as dark forests, pushing into sonic territory inhabited by nightmarish sounds, recording their ecstatic visions and black sorceries in order to share their ancient beliefs with the Few.'

Blimey. Other than the album that you have kindly donated to us to give away with this feature, do you have any more tunes we can listen to?

CS: We have also recently released the EP Modraniht as a free download. You can hear that here.

Bearing in mind what you've just told me, do you not think that people who come to Cultus Sabbati cold, as it were, will be expecting a warmer, more analogue sound? People have come to expect ritual music to be analogue and perhaps quite doomy haven't they? What you do is closer to power electronics (although I wouldn't call it that) than doom metal.

CS: In our opinion there are very few musical groups that are actively creating true ritual music. Within the 'doom' scene there are bands, like Sunn o))) for instance, who make music that utilizes certain preconceived notions of ritual (drone, robes) but whose members are not practitioners of any esoteric tradition. Its all show, theatrical illusion, if you will. (Its pretty common in metal for bands to posture about "evil" and "the occult" without being serious.)

When Cultus Sabbati records we setup our equipment within a ritual setting, the audio is captured as we perform within this setting. Even the process of recording is happening within the ritual. The sounds you hear are the sounds of Cultus Sabbati practicing its personal form of ritual magick. It is very important to us that the purity of what we are doing comes through.

After we have finished we then take the material into a more traditional studio environment for mixing and mastering. Everything is done within a very small group of people who intimately understand what we are trying to accomplish with this project.

Our sound (your allusion to power electronics) is the direct by product of these actual ritual exercises. We don't shy away from the more extreme sounds, brittle feedback, layered distortion, or things like that. In the studio we try to make sure these sounds don't get rounded off and cleaned up too much during the mix.

Cultus Sabbati - Garden of Forking Ways (Shining Edit) from Cultus Sabbati on Vimeo.

I can see a link between yourselves and other bands that I really like that have a very extreme metal aesthetic but are not really metal at all such as Burial Hex and Gnaw Their Tongues.

CS: Although we come from a more 'metal' background Cultus Sabbati draw a great deal of influence (sonically) from groups like Burial Hex, Arktau Eos, Xasthur, Locrian to name a few.

Can you expand in forensic detail about what you mean by setting up your equipment in a ritual setting?

CS: In the beginning of what is now called Cultus Sabbati we were just performing the sounds as accompaniment/actions to our collective ritual practices. Each of us are in other musical projects and we found this common ground around magickal practice.

Eventually we began recording these ritual sessions and decided to bring the laptop into the circle with us as part of the ritual. So that the documentation of the ritual is part of the practice. Within the circle is all of our primary equipment (amps and PA outside the circle connected via cables) along with the other practical paraphernalia.

We begin the ritual with the start of the recording, work through a half improvised/half written series of events, and document the whole thing sonically.

Once we have the recorded material we take that into a studio and work with it in a more studio/recording setting. Dealing with the pieces and doing some manipulation to give it a form, mixing and mastering. The person who mixed/mastered Garden of Forking Ways is a rather well known engineer who went with the anonymous thing we do in part because the vinyl copies have a ritual we have written (The Ritual of the Salamander) printed on the insert card that calls for the actual sacrifice of a salamander.

What exactly are your occult beliefs?

CS: The framework for our ritual working is highly influenced by what is commonly called the Sabbatic craft. It's a tradition of witchcraft that draws its roots from the traditional practices of the medieval European cunning craftspeople. More generally we accept a viewpoint often held by chaos magickians that the understanding of human consciousness is limited in the 21st Century and that by accessing a more primeval framework for conscious expansion we are able to become in-touch with a deeper and more profound part of who we are as people.

Do you engage with magick in the same way as some one like Alan Moore for example?

CS: Alan Moore specifically and comics in general influenced all of us when we were younger. The name Garden of Forking Ways is actually derived from the Neil Gaiman comic book Sandman. In it Destiny inhabits a vast Garden. At the centre of this garden also live the Fates. This concept of the three wise women who control all life is something that works well in the context of our ritual practice.

Can the listener use the music as part of an occult ritual?

CS: We recently released an album's worth of music that was made with the direct intention of being the soundtrack for use in a listener's private rituals. Modraniht [download link above] was released on the last winter solstice for free. It is three tracks and just over 36 minutes long. Its a more low key piece of music than Garden of Forking Ways, meant for practical use in magick.

But ultimately all of our recordings can be utilized in this way. As the documentation of our own workings it often tends to be very specific, very centered personally. Which is why with Modraniht we left the fog a little deeper, as if we have left room for the listener to participate.

Whatever your personal belief in Ritual Magick we'd like to thank Cultus Sabbati, whomever they be, for kindly donating their digital album to readers of the Quietus. If you'd like to upgrade to tasty vinyl, please visit Rococo's website.