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Samael Above

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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

by Scott Ustel
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 (29) post new comment
anonymous 4/7/2009 9:06:14 AM

BM = bowel movement, bro


Jamey Samael_ 4/7/2009 12:03:39 PM

You f*cking Untermensch. You don't know the first thing about black metal; we put a lot of time and effort into this CD, and it's one of the kvltist releases of the year. We better not catch you around at any shows, because if my horde sees you, you'll wish you never got out SCOWLS about this record, listen up! Thanks to every minion who bought it already but for those who have not been able to find it, try TARGET, yes TARGET is stocking it for ONLY $6.99 and you get TWO CDS. The bonus CD has ne


grantgoodmorrow_ 4/7/2009 12:40:32 PM

Ever since Passage, Samael has had a very modern sound. I read press releases saying that they were gonna go back to some of their black metal roots and make an album that would sound like a cross between that and Passage. From your review, it sounds like they accomplished that, so why are you bashing them because they're not "kvlt" enough? Just judge the damn thing on its own merits, not against an entire genre.


Godfather_ 4/7/2009 1:37:49 PM

Get this f*cking weed addled moron away from the internet.


drew_ 4/7/2009 1:40:10 PM

i know i'm a dumb gay, but jesus christ, this guy takes the cake.


cantfakethepunk_ 4/7/2009 1:59:56 PM

I LOVE DICKS IN MY MOUTH


anonymous 4/7/2009 3:26:44 PM

This is the first review I've seen rate under a 7 in like months.


anaturaldisaster_ 4/7/2009 3:51:02 PM

Samael have always had an industrial influence, and have been around forever. I'm not saying I like them very much, but this review was clearly written by someone with little to no knowledge of the band's history.


assface_ 4/7/2009 5:51:28 PM

way to go babyf*cker, forgot how to use Google? Samael STARTED as a Black Metal band. They weren't trying something different, they were going back to their roots.


anonymous 4/7/2009 5:57:14 PM

Horrible f*cking review does the reviewer know shit abou this band


Ryan_ 4/7/2009 6:39:10 PM

Hahahaha! I don't even know where to begin on this one. Terrible review of a good album.


deez_nutz_ 4/7/2009 7:33:31 PM

Hey webbie, can we get some reviewers that aren't still in 10th grade? This guy is a complete f*ck nut and doesn't know shit of what he's talking about. If you want someone to review black metal, get someone who's knowledge of black metal spans more than the last two years and whatever is considered 'kvlt' whatever the f*ck that means.


SPAT_CREW_ 4/8/2009 1:09:27 AM

Jesus Christ this reviewer is one dumb f*cking gay.


hours_of_despair_ 4/8/2009 1:23:22 AM

this is the first time i've seen almost all the comments agreeing so far, and rightfully so. this reviewer obviously knows absolutely nothing about the genre he's reviewing. samael are, and for about two decades have been an essential part of the black metal scene. this album f*cking rules and it's great to hear them go back to their roots while keeping in tune with their progression. please get some competent reviewers.


Fur_Beach_ 4/8/2009 1:30:28 PM

review. FAIL.


anonymous 4/8/2009 2:42:54 PM

lolercaust @ babyhead reviewer


zzz_ 4/8/2009 10:21:36 PM

"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." Skeletonwitch can! Sorry, I just wanted plug Skeletonwitch... Anyways, after reading the comments, this band sounds pretty cool....


xote_ 4/9/2009 3:39:40 AM

Damn these comments ripped this guy apart without even calling him a gay... which probably means for once everyone is right about this review.


xote_ 4/9/2009 3:40:51 AM

2 new Wolves in the Throne Room releases, a new Xasthur release, the most recent Deathspell Omega EP - hahaha f*cking lol.


RxCx_ 4/9/2009 10:53:36 AM

listen to their earlier albums,they were kickass black/death metal band before they started using industrial parts in their music.listen to the album "worship him",one of their best opus.


Lohan666_ 4/9/2009 2:16:05 PM

yeah..this review is terrible. album is great!


anonymous 4/10/2009 2:42:49 PM

sounds like the dudes from KMFDM f*cked the idiots from Mayhem and had a gay idiot baby and named it Samael.


the man's got a point..._ 4/10/2009 4:39:13 PM

sounds like the dudes from KMFDM f*cked the idiots from Mayhem and had a gay idiot baby and named it Samael. posted by () on 4/10/2009 2:42:49 PM


tower_ 4/10/2009 8:17:21 PM

good lord I don't even know where to start about this atrocity of a review.


the_smile_that_kills_ 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!


cantfakethepunk_ 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.


godgrinder_ 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.


fucktits_ 4/16/2009 10:48:27 PM

this band is SO f*ckING GAY. borderline nu metal.


shat_crew_ 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