“Illumination” - Samael vocalist Vorph sheds light upon ninth studio album Above
By Mark Fisher
During May 2008, Samael's members launched a project dubbed Above. Upon Above's official MySpace page, the track “Black Hole” was made available for streaming. Weeks later, the track “Polygames” surfaced. By late November, it was revealed that Samael's members had discarded the project, but wished to use the resulting material in support of Samael's ninth studio album, which would be entitled Above. At Little Rock Studio in Switzerland, Above was recorded and engineered by Kris Fredriksson. Fredrik Nordström mixed the album at Studio Fredman in Hyssna, Sweden, whilst Erik Broheden mastered the album at Masters of Audio in Stockholm. In mid December, an early March 2009 issue was slated.
Throughout January and February 2009, Samael participated in the Solar Soul Balkans Tour 2009, consisting of fourteen dates which paired the outfit alongside Keep of Kalessin and Noctiferia. During early January, Above's Patrick Pidoux designed cover artwork was unveiled, as well as its track listing.
Samael have oft been a confusing entity. Regarded as an early second wave Black Metal group, it wasn't until the outfit began to experiment with electronic and Industrial elements that they truly came to worldwide attention. For years, the act's cult-like following have clamoured for a return towards the wildly aggressive and unrestrained sound prevalent within their early works, and at long last, Samael have answered those wishes. Above is certainly a wild-eyed glance at the group's past, and should unquestionably excite fanatics. Lucem Fero recently had the chance to speak to vocalist Vorph regarding Above. The frontman discusses the album's musical and lyrical content, its artwork, Samael's fall 2008 North American tour alongside Amorphis and Virgin Black, as well as forthcoming shows supporting reformed Death Metal outfit Carcass. Since 1987, vocalist / guitarist Vorph has fearlessly led the Swiss gods, garnering criticism at seemingly every step. Having recently seen the band live though, it would definitely appear that they have transcended any criticism and descent that has come their way.
- How are things with Samael these days?
- Things are going great. Above has been issued in Europe recently, and in a few days, we're returning to America to support Carcass. We're all excited to perform our new tracks live.
- I saw Samael perform in the fall of 2008 with Amorphis and Virgin Black. How was that tour for Samael? I was there in Cleveland, Ohio, and it seemed as though the majority of the crowd was there to watch Samael perform.
- That was a nice tour, and it had been a long time since we last performed in North America. A lot of fans we met told us that they'd been waiting roughly ten, twelve or fifteen years even to see a Samael concert. That left us wondering why we hadn't performed in North America more often, and that's something we'll make efforts to change.
- Musically speaking, Above is a slight step backwards for Samael in my opinion. Whilst writing the material for Above, did you consciously decide to incorporate some of Samael's early sound, or was it something that occurred naturally?
- We worked on Above's material, and didn't know that material would be used for Samael. We only thought we'd have some fun, and see where it could lead. Once we had penned enough material to issue an album, we initially intended to issue it under a side project. Whilst listening to the tracks together though, we experienced the feeling that some of the tracks would be a nice addition to Samael's set list. That's how the material surfaced as Above.
- For fans of extreme music, Samael has many classic records. With that in mind, did you have any particular goals in writing tracks for Above? Do you feel Samael's music must live up to fans' expectations?
- To some extent, I don't think Above lives up to the standard outlined by Solar Soul (2007) and Reign of Light (2004). Above is much rougher, and less thoughtful, though that's precisely what we thought was so exciting about the album. The way Above materialized was authentic, we thought. The whole music and lyrics are pretty instinctive, and that feels fresh to us.
- Upon Above, “Virtual War” is one of the tracks which really stood out. What influenced the track, and how did it come to fruition?
- “Virtual War” seems very Punk oriented, and musically speaking, stands somewhere between Discharge, and Impaled Nazarene. Some of those rhythms were present upon our earlier recordings, and Mas really wanted us to incorporate those rhythms back into Samael's sound.
- For me, “Illumination” is another standout track, and has a very positive and inspirational message. Again, could you discuss how the track, and its lyrics, were inspired?
- “Illumination” is one of my favourite tracks upon Above, the number having a “Bathorish” vibe. The first bars are very similar to those found within Worship Him's title cut, but while that track ventures down towards an almost Doom track, “Illumination” maintains a mid tempo until its conclusion. The lyrics aren't far from tracks such as “Ways” (Eternal) or “Telepath” (Reign Of Light); they're very much connected with our inside world, and the possibility to link it with the outside.
- Is there a specific track upon Above which you feel is superior to the others? A track which you can listen to, and say “Yes, we got it exactly right on that one!”?
- We didn't spend as much time penning Above's tracks as we did penning Solar Soul's tracks, since we wanted the tracks to be more brute and straight. Maybe “Black Hole” is the most accomplished of Above's tracks - well, that's the track we've chosen to present upon our upcoming tour at least.
- Do you feel that Samael's tracks have definite meanings or have definite intent? Or is it up to the listener to interpret their own meaning?
- I like tracks which have different layers, and mean more than one thing at the same time. What you understand will then depend upon where your mind's at when you hear the tracks in question.
- Above additionally features one of the most impressive pieces of cover art I've seen in a very long time. Can you shed some insight on the artist, and what the piece represents to you personally?
- I'm glad you like the cover art. The name of the artist is Patrick Pidoux, the same guy who designed Solar Soul's cover. It wasn't what I had in mind when we initially discussed the cover art, but when I first saw the cover. I immediately liked it. The artwork suits the album title well, and has huge connections with several tracks.
- You'll be performing on some dates with the legendary Metal group Carcass. During those shows, do you anticipate Samael having a good time? Would you say Carcass were an influence upon Samael at any point?
- We're happy to return to American soil, and are really looking forward to those dates. I don't think Carcass has been an influence upon Samael, but I bought their two first albums. To this day, Symphonies of Sickness (1989) is still one of the greatest Death Metal albums ever recorded.
- Thanks so much for your time. Are there any parting thoughts you'd like to leave with?
- Thanks for your interest, and support. We hope to see you all on tour.