בַּת שֶׁ֫בַע, the biblical character that drove King David nuts when he saw her bathing has reincarnated into a sinister entity which has seduced many listeners with its cursed music. Hailing from Belgium, Bathsheba is in a way the new kid on the metal scene, despite the years of service of its members who play (or have played) in several well known bands like Gorath, Serpentcult or Death Penalty.
Two years ago the band released their first EP, “The Sleepless Gods“, a 2 song material which came out on Svart Records, the home of non conventional metal music. I found it interesting, but for some unknown reason it didn’t knock me off my feet, so after several spins I left the vinyl on its shelf. But several weeks ago I had the chance to come across a couple of tracks from Bathsheba‘s new album, “Servus“, and, just like the biblical David, I was instantly infatuated with the music and wanted to listen more to it, so I bought the album. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Servus” – an easy, simple name, which can have multiple meanings. A “trap” for the listener though, because the music created by the 4 Belgians is not that simple at all. What you can listen to on the record is the music of the devil played by humans. This is how i can label Bathsheba‘s new album, which came out in February, again on the same trusty Svart Records.
This debut album is a stunning piece of doom metal, played a la carte. Impressive instrumentals and beautiful vocals, but I’ll talk about that later. Containing only 6 songs, from which only 4 are new, (The Sleepless Gods and Manifest are rearranged versions of some old songs from the above mentioned EP and the Demo MMIV), “Servus” is a perfect compendium of haunting, desolate and atmospheric doom metal melodies made to torment your life.
The album begins with “Conjuration of Fire“, a track which shows what we’ll deal with during the next 45 mins. Slithering like a giant snake, Bathsheba‘s music creeps up on you, leaving you gasping for air with each riff, verse or drum roll. With its slow and agonizing rhythm, the track sets the mood for the rest of the album and I can assure you it’s not a jolly one at all. On the contrary, but if you like this kind of music (and I really hope you do) you’ll dig this album from the first listen.
The moment the charismatic Michelle Nocon unleashes her vocals, you’ll be mesmerized by their horrific beauty. Her powerful voice “explodes” into a multitude of sounds, from a harsh, almost black metal tone to a melancholic, haunting and almost operatic voice. The duality of her voice, like it’s possessed by a powerful entity gives this record a unique touch of evil, which could not have been felt if the vocals were male.
After the slow, mammoth like rhythms of “Conjuration of Fire“, the second track “Ain Soph“, the shortest one of the album, begins with a frenzy of blast beats and cold guitar riffs which make you think of a Scandinavian black metal band. After almost 1 minute of baffling speed, the song cools down and the band returns to the sloth-like rhythms of doom. When you least expect it, a “bizarre” intruder makes a surprise appearance in the form of a psychedelic saxophone (played by Peter Verdonck). This odd appearance is very well integrated in the song and brings a special touch to the whole consistency of the album. (Amazing track, I really love it!!).
The third track, “Manifest“, is also the longest, with over 10 minutes of pure class doom and despair. This crawling monster of a song has all what it takes not to bore you to death, despite its length. The musicianship is at its best here (as well as on the entire album, actually), making this superb track one of the best (doom) metal songs I have ever listened to. Michelle‘s soft, smooth voice mixes perfectly with all the instruments, creating a monument of sadness and despair. “A manifest of life/My Satan dances with his devil“. To add some extra fuel to the fire, Dwight Goosens delivers here maybe the most beautiful guitar solos I have heard in a metal song.
Demonic whispers and a creepy bass line open “Demon 13“, a very sludge metal track. The atmosphere on this song is really evil, with some twisted vocals contributing to the overall audio scenery. Michelle uses her possessed voice at its full capacity and together with her band mates they create a scary track.
“The Sleepless Gods” follows next, with the same slow pounding drum rolls and the crunchy, heavy riffs crushing all in front of them. Again, Dwight delivers another superb guitar solo, this time much shorter than the one on “Manifesto“, but nevertheless equally melancholic. “In the dust when all seems to fade away/Everything seems peaceful. But it’s never quiet“. The perfect line which reflects the essence of the song and of the album. Everything seems to fade away, crushed under the heaviness of the riffs, only to rise again on “I, At the End of Everything“, the last track of this superb album.
“Blood, it hurts
This life is pain”
A nightmarish atmosphere emanates from this last song, mostly caused by Michelle‘s witch-like vocals. Happiness, joy and such other feelings have nothing to do with Bathsheba‘s music, instead gloom, desolation and sorrow are everywhere at home, making “Servus” the perfect experience for any serious (doom) metal lover.
The strong point of this album is the way these 4 musicians complete each other, making Bathsheba a “whole”, not just a “support” for one musician or another. Each member has his own important role and they play it accordingly, creating a 4 headed monster which spews forth doom!
The best way to listen to “Servus” is to listen it in the privacy of your own home. Kill all the sources of light in the room and lie down, on the floor or on your bed, while the record spins. Empty your thoughts and just let the darkness embrace you. Empty your mind and open your eyes, what you’ll see and feel will surprise you. The music will slowly fill your body and you’ll be able to sense it through all your limbs. When the music stops, repeat this experience several times – only then you will understand this album in all its beauty.
If I were to rate it, I would have given “Servus” a clear 5/5 pointed stars. For me it is already one of the “best metal albums of 2017” list.
1. Conjuration of Fire
2. Ain Soph
4. Demon 13
5. The Sleepless Gods
6. I, At the End of Everything
Bathsheba line up:
Michelle Nocon – vocals
Dwight Goosens – guitars
Raf Meukens – bass
Jelle Stevens – drums