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Samael - Above (CD)

Samael
Above
by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos at 21 March 2009, 10:12 AM

After 20 years we've tried to do an album that would represent what SAMAEL is all about and we did Solar Soul. We feel now it is the right time to remind the people where we come from and that's exactly what Above will do. It is like an enhanced version of our three or four first albums, maybe the missing link between Cermony Of Opposites and Passage. With the Era One project we've tried to work on different influences, with Above we striped everything down. It is a metal album through and through. These lines belong to Vorph, who pretty much describes the band's intentions in this release. Above is SAMAEL's effort to take a look back to their past and remind us (or maybe themselves) how they sounded when Worship Him hit the scene somewhere in 1991.
SAMAEL fall into the category of bands that have separated their fans into two camps. The first one stays on the early days when Black Metal was their main style just before Passage. And this album marks the territory for the second camp comprising of open-minded fans who consider the electronic additions as exploring new territories.
A group of skepticism clouds filled my mind when I read the above statement; I don't really like the idea of 'returning to the old days/sounds' or whatever. It seems like the band has regretted the initial ‘changing sound' decision and now is trying to re-earn what was lost. Fortunately, Above does not fall in the aforementioned 'backflip' category. The songs sound heavier with a guitar based structure that touches the Black Metal scene through fast riffs, regular blast beats and distorted vocals. Actually, the vocals are an issue here; I believe (and it is a matter of taste) that they come way too distorted reaching in times the level of incomprehensible.
The album opens with the solid drum work with Under One Flag that kicks in hard with distinct riffs in the vein of ROTTING CHRIST even though the Greek band has deeply influenced by SAMAEL. Virtual War remains in the heavy path slightly introducing Industrial aesthetics with monotonous rhythms and a killer tempo that will warm your neck. Polygames steps on the gas pedal and as it slows a little bit an excellent guitar riff blows your ears diving deeper in Black Metal atmospheres. With this track I assured myself that I did not like the album's overall production; everything sounds overloaded and muffled at times giving the impression that the musical instruments struggle to come first and thus suppress the other. This also works against the guitars that have much to 'say' riff-wise and works in favor of the loud drums that dominate the entire album. Take for example Black Hole that enters with (another) ROTTING CHRIST sounding rhythm and then gets lost through hard hitting snare drum and the blasting double pedaling while the keyboard addictive break is definitely the highlight of the song in question.
Old habits die hard and some minor electronic arrangements show up in Dark Side and In There but you have to listen careful to flush them out so no worries here for the old timers.
So, have SAMAEL returned to the old days? Hell no! This album is more of a tribute to their past with songs that sounds pretty fresh and yes heavy as fuck! The guitars have the lion's share while Vorph still possesses the Black Metal mojo with his chord tormenting vocals that obviously are industrial oriented. If only the sound production was better…

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
Under One Flag
Virtual War
Polygames
Earth Country
Illumination
Black Hole
In There
Dark Side
God's Snake
On The Top Of It All
Lineup:
Vorphalack - Vocals, Guitars
Makro - Guitars
Christophe Masmiseim - Bass
Xy - Drums, Programming, Keyboards
Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records
     


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