After many years experimenting with industrial, gothic, and modern sounds, Swiss metal legends Samael turned back the clock with their latest platter Above, a triumphant return to the black metal sounds of their early years. Guitarist/vocalist Vorph took some time out of his busy schedule to speak to Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo regarding the new CD and the current touring schedule of Samael.
SoT: Above is an exciting return to Samael's earlier black metal sound. What prompted the band to switch gears on this release and move away from the more industrial metal style that ou've been creating for quite a while?
Vorph: We worked on the Above material thinking it would be a side project, our
intention was just to have fun and play something from the guts rather than thinking too much about it. Xy wanted to make songs that were 100% metal, something faster and more aggressive than what we've done so far with S A M A E L. When everything was finished we decide to use this for our new album. We thought it would be a surprise to many and great stuff to play live.
SoT: The songs on Above are fast paced and brutal-was it challenging to come up with so many inventive riffs and intricate, pummeling drum work for these tunes?
Vorph: This was Xy who initiated the whole thing, I guess after working on the "Era
One" project which was very calm and moody, he felt like doing something opposite. The whole album is based on the guitars, full of melodies and harmonies, the keyboards are more at the back to give some atmosphere to the music. That's probably the biggest difference with "Solar Soul" or "Reign Of Light", where most of the songs were composed around the drums and keys.
SoT: Black metal takes on many forms these days-from the traditional old school style that is raw & primal, to the symphonic sounds of bands like Dimmu Borgir, the gothic style made popular by Cradle of Filth, to the wave that is coming out of the USA that combines elements of all of them. With Above, how does Samael fit into the equation, if they do at all?
Vorph: We don't really ask ourselves those kinds of questions, we play metal with different influences, mainly classical and industrial. Above on the other side is less experimental that our previous recordings, this is the music we were listening when we started with S A M A E L. You can ear a lot of our early influences in it and we actually listed most of the bands that had an impact on us inside the booklet of the cd.
SoT: Can you talk about some of the lyrics behind the songs on Above?
Vorph: I didn't prepare anything prior to the music, I just listen to the songs and wrote what ever came to my mind. The topics are the same than those I developed since Eternal but more crude way, less metaphorical. The music is more frontal the lyrics had to follow.
SoT: The sound of the new album is excellent-can you talk about what it was like working with Fredrik Nordstrom, Kris Fredricksson, and Erik Broheden on the engineering, production, mixing, and mastering?
Vorph: We met Kris while we were recording Eternal, he was then the assistant of
David Richard and that's how we ended working with him. Makro mixed two albums of his own band with Fredrik and he told us Fred would be the perfect guy to mix that kind of sound. The whole album was mixed in four days so that gives a live feeling to the music which fits totally with our purpose.
SoT: You mention and give thanks to bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer, Motorhead, Impaled Nazarene, Sentenced, Venom, Bathory, Black Sabbath, Metallica, KISS, and others in the CD booklet. How important were these metal legends in inspiring and influencing the members of Samael over the years?
Vorph: Beside Impaled Nazarene and Sentenced that we discovered later they're
actually the people that make us wanted to start a band. As Above has strong links to our early days we thought it would be nice to pay a tribute to the pillars of our foundation.
SoT: Can you talk about live plans in support of the new CD?
Vorph: We're currently on tour in the US supporting Carcass, the album is not out
here but we put one song of Above in our set list. We'll soon play festivals in Europe so we'll add a couple of new tracks and maybe we'll do a proper tour for Above this fall but for now nothing is planned.
SoT: What songs from the new CD will be making their way into the upcoming
Vorph: Black Hole for sure as we're already playing it, the next will be Illumination and then we'll see.
SoT: What has reaction been so far from fans and the media on Above?
Vorph: Very good indeed, we knew people didn't expect us to do something like that at this point and beside the surprise effect we didn't know how it would be received. That's the best thing when you do something for fun and that fun becomes contagious.
SoT; What is your take on the metal scene today? Any bands, or musical trends that you keep an eye on?
Vorph: I mostly listen to classical music those days but there is always interesting things happening in the metal scene, I particularly enjoy bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah or Opeth.
(Click here to read our review of Above)