Samael - Above

I must confess I’ve lost interest in Switzerland’s Samael following the release of “Eternal” in 1999, mostly due to the fact they were heading towards an overly electronic and synthetic sound that wasn’t entirely appreciated.
The following work “Reign of Light” released in 2004, although I’ve not had the chance of listening to it, I’ve read in some publications it was some sort of a return to form with a more aggressive, guitar-oriented approach and a lesser emphasis on keyboards and electronic sounds. Then the band sort of took a step back with their “Solar Soul” record from 2007, which provoked some mixed feelings among their listeners. Samael were obviously passing thru a creative crisis, unsure if they wanted to pursue the more industrial and electronic sonority of their later releases or if they wanted to retain the aggression and hard-hitting vibe of their early works and that’s why “Solar Soul” sounded slightly ill-sorted and unfocused.
Now surges “Above”, an album that was originally designed to be released as a side project in a similar move to their “Era One” work, but ended up getting the signature of Samael since the band considered it to be the missing link between “Ceremony of Opposites” and “Passage”.
As a matter of fact, “Above” is far heavier and faster than everything they’ve done following “Blood Ritual” and if it wasn’t for the band’s logo on the front cover I’d have a hard time recognizing the sonority presented here.
I guess a reinvention was in order and necessary, but regrettably by taking this trip down the memory lane, Samael have ditched the qualities that always placed them above many of their peers and have now become more generic and slightly undistinguishable from the rest of their Swedish counterparts.
One of the most appreciated traits of Samael are the mid-stomp crunch of their Celtic Frost-inspired riffs that always had a unique sense of immediacy and incited a lot of head nodding. However, by adopting a faster and fiercer riffing, the guitars have regrettably lost the importance of the hook.
Another trait that is missed in “Above” is the slightly discernable and raspy vocalizations of Vorph, who for the most part of the album opts for a more savage and screaming style that is unfortunately very uncharacteristic.
Even the overall quality of some of the songs seems a bit subpar for a band with the stature of Samael, so I can’t help but feel utterly disappointed with “Above”.
I’m sure many of the group’s long-time followers will appreciate this return to a more primitive style, but as for me I only hope this is just a transitory period in their career.
(5/10)

Band info: www.samael.info
Label info: www.nuclearblast.de

1 comment:

  1. What a lame excuse for a review!

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