Music Reviews


Sabbatum: A Medieval Tribute to Black Sabbath

The Music Cartel

In my Heavy Metal adult life I don’t think I’ve anticipated the release of an album as much as I have this one. I’d first found out about Sabbatum back in September 2002 from a Web search, believe it or not, for “death to false metal” and “latin” – I thus declare: falsus metallum delenda est!

A quick visit to the official Sabbatum Web site and I was hooked. Just the idea of Black Sabbath songs on medieval instruments would have been enough, but professionally-arranged Latin versions was more than I could ever imagine. This is the musical breakthrough of the 21st Century, direct from the 14th Century. Get ready to bang your heads…

Rondellus are a professional musical performance troupe hailing from Estonia, specializing in music of the Latin catholic mass as sung circa 1300. Their previous work, three albums’ worth, consisted of sacred and profane period pieces; e.g., Gregorian chants, Knightly drinking cantos, etc. Additionally, Rondellus have performed the same all over Europe. This amazing band (four Estonians and a Swede or two) have done what can only be considered an absolute triumph in the history of music: the successful transmogrification of what normally would be at home with an electric guitar and such to harp, lute, bagpipe, positive organ and psaltery.

The triumph is in the greatness of this album. First of all, this isn’t your grandfather’s Black Sabbath tribute. It’s not contemporary, it’s not expected, it defies and transcends what previous (and perhaps future) tributes to the Heavy Metal band are. The song choices are impeccable, here are just a few: “Verres militares,” “Funambulus domesticus,” “Symptoma mundi,” “Magus,” Post murum somnii” and ““Oculi filioli.” That would be, “War Pigs,” “A National Acrobat,” “Symptom of the Universe,” “The Wizard,” “After Forever,” and “Junior’s Eyes.” Between the Black Sabbath cognoscenti and me, simply reading the Latin translations of those particular songs is nothing short of electrifying. (“Verres militares” is better described as “chilling, like a feeling never before experienced prior to engaging in war…”)

Hearing these and other songs (there are twelve altogether) arranged for medieval instruments and sung in Latin as one might imagine before the prince under torchlight and stained glass windows, cannot be described by my vulgar words. It must be heard. Were I asked, I’d say my favorite Black Sabbath song of all time is “Spiral Architect,” off Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath. It is at the same time heavy, powerful and yet intricate as a perfectly woven spider web… Rondellus salutes the listener with “Architectus urbis caelestis” as the final track on their album (they saved the best for last) and – macte virtute – here is the power, the majestic heaviness with all the intricacy – and more – fully intact!

For lovers of all things Black Sabbath, you already have this album. For lovers of the obscure, certainly this should be in your collection. For students of Latin (the translations are included in the album’s liner) Sabbatum is, without question, an absolute must and thus you will declare: Ne plus ultra!

The official Sabbatum Web site boasts some MP3 files – albeit they’re samples, but they’ll hook you, I stake my reputation on it.

The Music Cartel: • Sabbatum:

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