Review: Damh the Bard, Sabbat

sabbat coverThe first sound you hear from Damh the Bard’s new album, Sabbat, is a joyous burst of energy as Damh and his band launch into the title track, a rousing celebration of pagan revelry. From there, song after song unspools, tuneful, rich and thoughtful.

Damh is working here at the peak of his talents. There is no filler, no missteps over the 50-minute span of the album. Sabbat is on a par with The Cauldron Born for consistency.

Buy Damh the Bard’s Sabbat here. (Digital download).

The songs span a range of topics, prominently including pagan observance (“Sabbat,” “Wicker Man”), and the importance of the past as it informs the present (“On The Shoulders of Giants,” “Time Machine,” “Forgotten, Never Be”). There is a version of the traditional “Scarborough Faire” and a cover of Uriah Heep’s “The Lady In Black.”

The album closes with “Thundersbarrow Hill,” which honors Odin and Thor. When Damh tackles mythology he usually sticks to Celtic myth (“Isis Unveiled” and “Pipes of Pan” being two other exceptions.) This one grew from his discovery of Danish DNA in his genome.

He has really mastered the principle of “show, don’t tell,” a rule for fiction writing that applies just as much to songwriting. “Sabbat” makes us feel the joy of the dance around the fire, after “working hard for the man” all day. The themes of the songs emerge from narrative, from story. The listener is immersed in the experience, not just told about it.

Those themes are resonant and searching. Whether learning from history (“Time Machine”) or appreciating the foundation of history (“On the Shoulders of Giants,”) for example, the song builds line by line and verse by verse to become a network of interconnected thoughts and insights. These are not simple campfire songs.

This is Damh’s seventh studio recording, and it is his most assured and confident yet. Pick it up. You won’t regret it.

Damh has released a series of videos in which he discusses the inspiration behind each song. Here is the first one.