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Samael Above

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Samael - Above
01. Under One Flag
02. Virtual War
03. Polygames
04. Earth Country
05. Illumination
06. Black Hole
07. In There
08. Dark Side
09. God's Snake
10. On the Top of It All
11. Black Hole [Verso Mix]
2009 Nuclear Blast Records

OUR SCORE
5
Reviewed by: Scott Ustel   //   Published: 4/7/2009

Nuclear Blast is usually one of those labels that I expect high quality from when I see their releases on store shelves or arriving in my mail box. I like it when all parts of a record deliver quality content and not just the cool cover art and great musicianship. Writing good songs and helping advance a genre in a static age, where it seems everything has been done, are key for making a release a "must have" record in an era of downloading piracy mayhem. This cannot be said for the latest Samael release, simply entitled Above. You would hope that by their 8th album a band would have their own sound fully developed, or at least be competent in their genre.

Maybe Samael feel so good about their status in the metal world that they felt 2009 would be the year for them to enter the Black Metal arena. With a slew of other exceptional BM releases coming out or having come out in late-2008 (2 new Wolves in the Throne Room releases, a new Xasthur release, the most recent Deathspell Omega EP and I hear rumblings of even bigger surprises in 2009) this record is sure to get lost in the crowd. Technically, there is nothing wrong with the production of this record, but it fails to capture the tonal qualities that make black metal so gritty and raw. Above has a very modern and almost overproduced feel to it (listen to the first few seconds of "Under One Flag") that would sound great for any other genre of metal, i.e. technical or industrial metal, but here it just lacks the charm, character and rawness that most BM enthusiasts look for in a "kvlt" release.

The instrumentation is stellar, especially the technical and thrashy guitars and the exceptional, digital drumming. That being said, great drumming (they were programmed in studio) isn't enough to lift Samael above the rest of the hordes of fiendish misanthropes composing their own black metal anthems. Samael claim this is their BM album but these guys clearly sound like they are writing thrash songs that have a Black Metal spin. Very few bands are capable of delivering the goods when tackling such a task. In fact, I can think of only one group that is really exceptional at doing that these days and that band is Absu.

"Under One Flag" starts off with great riffing and superb drumming but somehow becomes a mish-mash of speedy technical riffs and raspy blackened vocal delivery. Again, everything sounds fine but "fine" is about it; there is nothing that warrants a headbang or even the mildest of fist-pumps in the air. This album just feels soulless and almost industrial. In fact it actually feels like a bunch of session musicians who usually play thrash making a very clinical black metal record and this is more apparent as you dive further into the abyss and hit tracks like "Earth Country" and "Illumination." By the time you reach strange remix of their song "Black Hole" you might find yourself reaching for the stop button.

Bottom Line: These guys just tried to do something different and challenge themselves and perhaps they even wanted to stay current by involving themselves more with the ever growing BM scene. This might be Samael's fastest and most brutal album, and while not a terrible record, the lack of passion is apparent and the record might put the average Black Metal fan to sleep. The ultra-fast tempos, unrelenting musical landscape and superb production coupled with the work of seasoned musicians are still not enough to make this record a classic or a must-own.

Comments
shat_crew_   posted 4/17/2009 4:30:02 PM
COMEON GARRETH, NICE f*ckIN NAME BTW LOL1

5/10 THIS IS AT LEAST A 2/10 IF YOU NEW ANYTHING ABOUT REAL BM gay
fucktits_   posted 4/16/2009 10:48:27 PM
this band is SO f*ckING GAY. borderline nu metal.
godgrinder_   posted 4/16/2009 4:22:21 PM
This review is ridiculous. Did this guy really compare Samael to Xasthur? Really? Does he even realize that they STARTED as a black metal act and are now merging their industrial influences with their old sound? I, for one, was thoroughly impressed by this album. It's much faster, aggressive, and hateful than "Solar Soul" or any of their other "industrial" albums. Much better than this d-bag lets on.
cantfakethepunk_   posted 4/11/2009 12:26:28 AM
We can all argue about how this review might be sub par, or that Samael is like Atari Teenage Riot ass raping Gorgoroth. But it doesn't change the fact that I love dicks slapping against my cheeck.
the_smile_that_kills_   posted 4/10/2009 9:00:09 PM
LISTEN UP YOU f*ckING SHITHEADS, THAT WASN'T JUST A REVIEW, IT WAS MY LIFE! I'LL KILL EVERY MOTHERf*ckING ONE OF YOU!

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