Mourning Has Broken

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Like many bands fortunate enough to be fronted by a uniquely charismatic vocalist -- in this case, self-professed pagan (and certified cuckoo bird) Martin Walkyier -- U.K. thrashers Sabbat faced almost insurmountable odds of survival after his departure following two critically acclaimed albums, still counted amongst the few ubiquitous classics of British thrash. And, sure enough, Sabbat briskly crashed and burned in dramatic fashion: disbanded by guitarist and chief songwriter Andy Sneap (yes, the future in-demand producer) after their reshuffled lineup's one and only show with new singer Ritchie Desmond at the helm. But, to be fair, Desmond's presence alone was hardly to blame for Mourning Has Broken's failure to convert disgruntled fans; he may have lacked his predecessor's inimitably idiosyncratic persona, but his vocal range was arguably broader, and his frequent forays into wince-inducing higher registers -- though significantly dated today -- were almost de rigueur at the time. Really, not even Sneap's decision to shift Sabbat's musical direction towards a slightly more melodic, sonically "clean" style (losing some familiar thrash savagery along the way) wasn't all that radical -- just different -- since lengthy new offerings like "The Demise of History" and "Theological Void" remained as adventurous and structurally complex as many of the songs that fans had raved over on those previous LPs. And even though much of the remaining material on Mourning ("Dumbstruck," "The Voice of Time") suffered from a certain sense of stylistic fatigue troubling the entire thrash genre in the early 1990s; the excellent "Paint the World Black" heralded a new level of mature and accessible thrash (reminiscent of Metal Church) that could have greatly broadened the band's audience if it had been given half a chance. But no, the album was widely condemned upon arrival by Walkyier loyalists nestled within the press and fan base (all of them unlikely to have given any replacement his fair shake), thereby feeding Sneap's insecurity and ensuring Sabbat's swift demise. Tellingly, Mourning Has Broken was denied a remastered reissue alongside Sabbat's earlier albums and seems almost to have been disowned by the group on the occasion of their reunion for a few shows, some 15 years later.

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