Samael
Above


3.5
great

Review

by Trey Spencer STAFF
March 9th, 2009 | 59 replies | 15,129 views


Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Samael pay tribute to their black metal roots.

This album wasn’t even supposed to be released under the Samael moniker. It started out as a side project for the band to pay tribute to their roots and remind themselves why they got into music in the first place. For reasons unknown (to me), the band eventually decided to make this a Samael release after all. In order to create a connection between this and their previous outputs, they began to tell people that the music found on Above was like an “enhanced version” of their first three or four albums or the missing link between Ceremony of Opposites and Passage. It should be noted, however, that none of those statements are true and this actually doesn’t sound like anything Samael have ever done. This needs to be stated so that fans don’t end up disappointed and also so that non-fans might give it a chance.

I don’t mean to imply that fans will be disappointed due to any lack of quality, only that false expectations can create disappointment where there otherwise wouldn’t be any. First and foremost this album is unlike anything Samael have ever done because of the unrelenting speed and aggression. The last time Samael played anything this fast was on their debut album over eighteen years ago, but even that can’t be compared. On their debut they played raw, basic black metal that only occasionally reached any kind of fast tempos. This, on the other hand, is slick and polished industrial black metal that only knows one speed; fast. It also can’t be compared to their later industrialized outputs because those are all mid-paced affairs that rely on keyboards and big grooving beats whereas this is entirely riff-oriented with an unrelenting barrage of high-speed percussion.

Now that the reasons why both fans and non-fans should go into this with an open mind have been made known, we can delve into the actual content. Even though the plan was always to pay homage to the bands that inspired them, the album does not sound dated at all. The main reason obviously comes from the programmed percussion which is simply huge and thunderous. Some might be disappointed by Xy’s decision to not go back to organic percussion for this album, but one listen should quell that feeling. The percussion creates a wall-of-sound that, despite the speed, drives forward the kind of mammoth rhythms the band has always been known for. This wall-of-sound is further expanded by the massive riffs that dominate every song. Every riff is loosely based around a melodic black metal blueprint, but they’re much heavier and with much more bottom-end.

In order to accommodate this heavy and unrelenting style Vorph brought back the black metal growls that were the signature of the band’s first four albums, but with a bit of added distortion. Unfortunately, this distortion was probably unnecessary and actually detracts from the powerful vocals that he was capable of. It also makes them all blur together and is a main factor behind the only real problem with this album; redundancy. Between Vorph’s distorted vocals and the lack of any dynamics, the album has the potential to sound repetitive after just a few songs. When passively listening, the speedy tempos shared by every song combined with the similar riffs can easily make this become redundant very quick. It is only after repeated plays (it took me listening to it with headphones) that the nuances become more apparent, but until everything clicks listening to this can be an exercise in endurance.

While this isn’t exactly the band returning to the style of their early albums, it is still more “metal” than anything they’ve done in the past decade. In fact, this is easily the heaviest, most unrelenting album the band has ever released. Those that have been turned-off by Samael’s foray into industrial metal can be assured that the inclusion of programmed percussion in no way means that this album has any relation to their previous industrial releases. This is slick industrial black metal that never breaks from its singular focus of paying homage to the band’s roots while not forgetting what year it is now. This modern take on the band’s black metal roots is so focused on that sound that it almost ends up being their downfall, but with repeated listens that concern slowly fades away.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Willie
Moderator
March 9th 2009



15911 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

People that listen to this and like what they hear should really check out Passage.

Digging: Nero Di Marte - Derivae

marksellsuswallets
March 9th 2009



4848 Comments


Wow that's some obnoxious looking cover art. This sounds interesting though, I have to say the idea of fast paced industrial black metal sounds kind of intriguing.

Hawks
March 9th 2009



35603 Comments


Really good review Willie. Album sounds pretty awesome.

Digging: Engraved - Before The Tales

fireaboveicebelow
March 10th 2009



6837 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this was fucking cool

Willie
Moderator
March 10th 2009



15911 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It is cool but the distorted vocals keep this below a 4 for me. Probably, anyone that has heard the vocals on Passage or Ceremony of Opposites would have the same problem.

absurdismwine
March 10th 2009



304 Comments


seeing these dudes at the arizona metalfest.



Burn2Burn
March 10th 2009



2378 Comments


I downloaded this a week or so ago, wasn't too impressed. Maybe it will grow on me.

Willie
Moderator
March 10th 2009



15911 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Yeah, this album started at a 2.5 for me and slowly moved to a 3. After I listened to it with headphones and really picked up a lot more it went to a 3.5

I've heard these guys are awesome live. I'm jealous.

jingledeath
March 10th 2009



7104 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

have this, need to give it a proper listen but the bits that I listened to were pretty good.

gaslightanthem
March 10th 2009



5209 Comments


i like the album art markselluswallets :-(

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2009



8327 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This sounds cool, probably going to check it out even considering the fact i'm not too big on black. Great review too!

Willie
Moderator
March 10th 2009



15911 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The bottom-end of the riffs combined with the arrangements (and especially the percussion) makes it so that it could easily appeal to those whom aren't really into black metal, give it a shot.

DrReg
March 10th 2009



127 Comments


Just got this, quite excited to see what its like. Great review too, by the way.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
March 10th 2009



8327 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

yeah thanks for the encouragement, I will.

rasputin
March 10th 2009



14538 Comments


Good review Willie.

Willie
Moderator
March 10th 2009



15911 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thanks. Have you listened to anything from this?

rasputin
March 10th 2009



14538 Comments


No I haven't unfortunately, I'm falling out of touch with new music at the moment - three weeks into semester now and things are already getting pretty hectic. I've only heard a single track from the band, not sure what it was, I can barely remember it, but I don't think I liked it.

Altmer
March 10th 2009



5652 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I need to hear these guys.

BallsToTheWall
March 10th 2009



44164 Comments


Good review, decent band. Will acquire after class.

jrowa001
March 10th 2009



8750 Comments


i didnt like Solar Soul at all, but your review makes me think i may like this one. ill check it out



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