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Sammath - Across the Rhine is Only Death

Across the Rhine is Only Death
by Chris Hawkins / Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 27 August 2019, 3:22 AM

Chris Hawkins (7/10)

What can effectively be said about Heavy Metal fans is that they are fiercely, remorselessly loyal.  While trends come and go in the popularized mainstream, Heavy Metal is a relative safe zone, a land of purity where one can feel at home unaffected by the rabble of You Tube sensations and Kardashians.  Everyone can remember their first exposure to favorite sectors of the Metal landscape.  My first exposure to Black Metal, perhaps my most love form of Metal along with Doom, was the 1992 release, “Blood Ritual,” by the mighty SAMAEL.  Already a die-hard fan of Death Metal, particularly and most importantly, MORBID ANGEL, Black Metal was like a dark whisper of decadent temptation gently calling me to enlist in its ranks of rabid rebellion.  Over the years many have expanded upon the Second Wave formula carved into stone by MAYHEM’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas,” some for better and some for worse. It can firmly be said, though, that The Netherlands’ own SAMMATH are among the most dedicated purists of Black Metal art.  Over the course now six full-lengths, beginning with 1999’s auspicious debut, “Strijd,” the band have perpetuated a brand of no-frills, nasty and savage Black Metal that has garnered fans across the globe.

While so many bands experiment and blur the lines between Black Metal and other forms of expression, incorporating all manner of ideas, it is thus refreshing to hear a band stay true to its roots.  For those whose rabid appetites for the murky darkness of totalitarian Black Metal were only vaguely whetted by last year’s release by MARDUK, “Across the Rhine is Only Death” is sure to satiate their hunger.  Within are eight tracks that serve to expand the compendium of song that SAMMATH have created in their now twenty-five years of existence.

Savagery,” the aptly titled opener begins the relentless onslaught of the album.  Immediately, one is inundated by fierce, unrelenting Black Metal that has stood the test of time only becoming more hateful over the years.  The third track, “Battletorn,” has a War Metal vibe similar to genre staples, BLASPHEMY.  It is a rugged, bombastic affair that injects adrenaline directly into one’s darkened heart.

Blood Ridden Fields,” the sixth track, is brutality made into song.  It is essentially a romp through vitriolic riffs and militant drumming replete with screams and wails of dying agony and strife.  The true highlight of the album is the final and title track.  Led by a dizzying snare drum attack, the song features razor sharp riffs that fly at the speed of light.  Ultimately, it is an enraged maelstrom of hate-filled fury that sets the eras ablaze with pyromantic flames that scorch with the very fires of hell itself.  Things slow down in the middle with a wise use of dynamics to set up what is perhaps the best, most memorable riff contained within, an arpeggiated line that fills the soul with grim gloom.

Across the Rhine is Only Death” is indeed a success and worthy of inclusion in SAMMATH’s discography.  Like the cave on Dagobah, one can find within only that which brought with them.  In this lies the beauty of the darkness, the personalized atmosphere one redeems from listening to the album.

Songwriting: 7
Originality:  6
Memorability:  6
Production:  7

Lior "Steinmetal" Stein (8/10)

The concept of War has been stepped on, turned over, and whatnot. There is no easy way to say this, and I am being sarcastic, but war is hell, its bad, and it should be. However, how can one remind the people of the world what war can cause? Well, it is simply, shock them to death, make them understand that peace is the ultimate, and talking to one another is key for a better life. Trust, it is not just a slogan, it is the real deal and it has proven itself on more than several cases throughout human history. Sure that there are those that would take advantage in order to show their other blackened side, gather up forces and start another war, yet there are those who suffered enough. So to what I am getting here really? Oh yes, the ugly side of bodies ripped to shreds but gun fire or Tank shells, or bomb shrapnel, the gory side of it all.

The Dutch SAMMATH have always been a squad, energized by the gruesomeness of war, finding time after time their way into itching the topic right into one’s skull in various of notorious ways. “Across the Rhine Is Only Death”, released via Hammerheart Records, is a pure indication of the destruction and blood spread throughout time, in particular the second world war that slaughtered millions over millions. Therefore, SAMMATH attack mercilessly, and they abide by the definition of being merciless, with agnostic Black Metal barrage of total madness, like a swarming storm that never ends. I must warn you, it wouldn’t be easy to listen at first, only after several sessions, you will be knee deep in the bludgeoning portrait being painted right before you.

Right from the get go, it is total mayhem, chops after chops of blast beating, Punking and grinding like a meat grinder, with Jan Kruitwagen screaming his guts out in dismay, as if he represents that millions of bodies of the dead, heeding, gasping for breath in final last crooked chant. There is an evident monotony to the music I agree, yet I came to understand that it served a different purpose. SAMMATH didn’t want to sound cool, complex or larger than life. They wanted the listeners to admire the filth and disgust, to become one with the putridness that is their music and within “Across the Rhine Is Only Death”, to the west of the German border, the maw of hell opened to welcome the souls of the rotten that lost to the good guys that ended the bloodshed, at least for that point in time.

The crude atmosphere led to welcome to the violent eruption of “Totenhügel”, which like most of them, combusted into the night’s sky like volcano, up until, similar to a giant, it takes slower steps, slow tempo of groove and great passages. I enjoyed the extreme arrangements between a raging tornado and a driving Tank kind of feel, there was that SLAYER sensation for several moments here and there. “Ferocious Mortal Fire” is the album’s teeth grinder, it inhales the ear as if it was nothing, straightforwardness at its wickedest side, riffs are rather simply, mainly speeding things up on all fronts. “Across the Rhine Is Only Death” is a fine ending for this ghastly chapter of mankind’s biggest of sins, the creation of the violent conflict. Spreading a mass of riffs, there is also a tuneful Black Metal melodic pattern that rushes in and out from its hiding place. “Bitter Fighting Amongst the Dead” comes ignited with a Black / Thrash / Punk kind of mixture, could be a distressed MAYHEM meets DESASTER sleeps with MARDUK, its arrangement is not merely the eye of the storm, but actually makes sense within the chaotic dominion of this album.

With barely a shred of melodies, and a kind of songwriting that would be hard to digest at first, “Across the Rhine Is Only Death” is a pill that could be swallowed and its message to be understood and comprehended. This is war people; it is a whole lot of mess.


4 Star Rating

1. Savagery
2. All Lay Dead in the Slit Trenches of Calcar
3. Battletorn
4. Ferocious Mortal Fire
5. Totenhügel
6. Blood Ridden Fields
7. Bitter Fighting Amongst the Dead
8. Across the Rhine is Only Death
Jan Kruitwagen - Guitars, Vocals, Lyrics
Ruud Nillesen – Bass, Vocals
Wim van der Valk – Drums, Vocals
Record Label: Hammerheart Records


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Edited 19 January 2021

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