Originally Samael started out as a black metal band on Worship Him (1991) and Ceremony Of Opposites (1994). Through the years they evolved into something totally different by adding more and more keyboards, electronic and industrial elements on albums such as Passage (1996), Eternal (1999), Reign Of Light (2004) and Solar Soul (2007). Despite their musical evolution Samael always managed to maintain a certain dark edge over their music. On Above, the band’s last album, the musical direction has changed again.
Call it regression or a return to their roots for all I care, but on Above Vorph and Co have suddenly discovered their love for black metal again. Overall speaking the song material is much faster in pace and rawer in nature than what Samael produced in the recent past. Elaborate keyboard parts are almost non-existent and the electronic effects are pushed way back in the mix in favour of guitars and drums.
Despite this musical return to the past not all the elements of the later albums are thrown overboard. The vocals of Vorph are drenched in distortion throughout the album, which gives Above a distinct industrial feel. Also the electronic effects are still audible in the background. The lavish production of Reign Of Light and Solar Soul is still very much present on Above, thanks to the skilful hands of Samael’s own Xy and Fredrik Nordström (Dark Tranquillity, In Flames).
The songs on Above are very well written and are surprisingly catchy at times. This is certainly the case with Under One Flag, Virtual War, Polygames, Black Hole and In There. Let’s say that some of the songs have the same vibe as Satyricon’s Now, Diabolical. Purists may find this pure blasphemy, but in the case of Samael and Above it’s meant as a compliment to their skills as song writers.
Above’s harsher black metal edge may signal a return to the past, but in terms of production and song writing prowess Vorph and Co stay very much in the present. All in all Above is a very surprising and rewarding effort from a band that never ceases to evolve and keeps its fans on their toes. I’m wondering what direction Samael will take on their next record.
written by Raymond Westland