Metal reviews: Samael - Above


26 mars 2009, 22h58m

Samael - Above

Review by Erik Thomas

Though Samael had a nice sorta comeback with Solar Soul after the pure techno metal of Eternal and Reign of Light, nothing really prepared me for Above and its almost return to blackened form.

Apparently this album was started as a black metal side project of Samael members but they decided to release it under the Samael moniker as Above sees a return to riff driven, urgent melodic black metal, complete with blast beats and distorted, screamed vocals. However, the compromise is that the drums still retain that ‘programmed’ mechanical feel. The result is not really a techno/industrial album, but more a black metal album that has a slight mechanical feel.

In truth, you’d be hard pressed to say this is a Samael album if you were listening blindly. Especially based on the opening trio of “Under One Flag” and the magnificent riffage of “Virtual War” – one of the album's standouts, and the furious blasting that opens “Polygames.” There’s so many great riffs on Above, it's like Samael have been saving them for the last decade and unleashed them on one album; even after the album’s more energizing opening tracks you get the steady march and harmonies of “Earth Country” and “Illumination,” which retain some of the techno pacing, but rendered with a slick and melodic black metal sheen. “Black Hole” returns to the blasting urgency of the album's opening with just some killer synth tinkering halfway through. “In There” kind of lets up a little with a more mechanical gait, but it’s followed by the album's other standout, “Dark Side.”

I kept waiting for something more Passage or Reign of Light –ish to surface (the start of “God’s Snake almost did it), but Vorph and co keep the intensity up all the way through fierce closer “On Top of It All.” The bonus track, a techno remix of “Black Hole” seems to be added as a footnote reminder of the band's previous tones, bit it’s truly the only part of the album that can be associated with the band's last couple of albums, but it still retains an urgent, caustic sound as opposed to the lush steady beats of yore. Of note is Xy’ guitar tone and overall sound which is simply huge, to the point of overbearing and in truth, it can be too much on some sound systems, often washing out the many nuances and melodies of the sublime riffage.

Chances are Above will flirt with my 2009 year end list, but in an era of rehashed and tired ‘comebacks’ and what not, it's awesome to see a band like Samael, after 18 years kick out an album as virile and genre/past sound ignoring as Above.
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