Samael - Above
Nuclear Blast
Blackened Industrial Metal
11 songs (39:06)
Release year: 2009
Samael, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

Starting life as a Black Metal band and adding Industrial influences until they became a slightly heavier and more diverse version of Rammstein, news that Swiss experimentalists Samael were going back to their roots was quite welcome to my ears. There simply can’t be enough Doom and Death-influenced Black Metal around at the moment, and since Samael were pretty good at it on their first couple of albums, then the release of Above is great news... right?

Well, not quite. For starters, Above isn’t like the description, erm, above at all. In fact, it’s pretty much a continuation of Samael’s electronic-based experimentation, only with blastbeats instead of catchiness. Think a sped-up Ceremony Of Opposites but with a more Dimmu Borgir-y style of Black Metal, and you’re partway there, but Samael have been clever here as far as songwriting goes. Opening track Under One Flag is grandiose enough to warrant comparisons to early Emperor, the layered beats compressing the epic orchestration into something distant and almost ambient. Other tracks also have that imperial feel too at certain moments, Dark Side one notable example, but often you’ll have a hard time hearing it due to, yes, the blastbeats. I’m not sure whether Xy broke the habit of the past few albums and actually played them, or just programmed them, but it really doesn’t matter because they ride over all the other instruments and sound pretty much the same in each track.

To be honest, the sheer amount and lack of variety in the drums means that your first listen to Above will probably be over before you’ve reached the third or fourth track, especially if you make my mistake of listening on poor quality headphones. You’ll be pulling faces and yelling if you do, and not from sheer amazement at the brilliance of the music; but give Above some time, listen on quality audio equipment, and be prepared to let a sea of blastbeats roll over you, and you might just get a hint of the brilliance that lies underneath. Brilliance like the militaristic overtones of Earth Country and Vorph’s exhortations to ‘march, march, march my people!’ (his vocal lines really help the album; it’s the most necro performance he’s given for a while). Virtual War’s guitars are almost Anaal Nathrakh-y in their Grinding for the first part of the track, whilst the Power Metally-keyboard solo in Black Hole is little short of awesome.

All in all, Above is certainly Samael’s best album since Eternal, if not Passage. It’s nowhere near as good as the classic Ceremony Of Opposites - an album that everyone should own, frankly – but once you’ve given it time to sink in it’s definitely the best of their post-millennial material. What will be interesting is the direction that the band takes in the future; let’s hope that Samael can mix their various sounds together into one all-conquering formula. For the moment this is, quite literally, a blast.

Killing Songs :
Under One Flag, Virtual War, Illumination, Black Hole, God’s Snake
Goat quoted 78 / 100
Other albums by Samael that we have reviewed:
Samael - Solar Soul reviewed by Cory and quoted 56 / 100
Samael - Reign of Light reviewed by Cory and quoted 86 / 100
Samael - Lux Mundi reviewed by Cory and quoted 92 / 100
Samael - Passage reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Samael - Ceremony Of Opposites reviewed by Goat and quoted 95 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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