Samael – Vorphing Into Primal

Friday, 29th March 2013

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As damn unlistenable as Samael’s newest album Above is, it will succeed in thrusting the Swiss metallers back into the dark metal fray where the band fully resided in the mid-90’s. Largely credited for creating the industrial metal template that is often copied, but never fully replicated in a proper manner, Samael’s now two decade-plus career is enjoying a second wind thanks toAbove and its subsequent support slot on Carcass’s 2009 Spring North American tour.

The dual working relationship between singer/guitarist Vorph and drummer/programmer/keyboardist Xy has been a fruitful, if not fully exploratory journey. The synthetic, militaristic sounds of 1996’s Passage and 1999’s Eternal were way ahead of its time, proving the Swiss brigade had a jump start on technology before everyone else did. Xy’s cold and pounding programming merged with driving riffs has formed a sonic barrier few can thwart, especially in the live setting where the band is truly a marvel.

A full week before Samael were to hit the road, Blistering caught up with the affable Vorph to talk about the new album and an array of topics, ranging from their industrial metal musings, to how the band is holding up in the face of a debilitating economic climate. Here’s how it went down: Considering how your last few albums weren’t very death metal-influenced, to hear how heavy and aggressive Above is, was certainly a surprise.

Vorph: Technically when we started to work on this material, we thought it was a side-project. Xy had this idea where we did a few songs and tried to do something very metal, straight to the point and before we knew it, we had enough material to record. We thought, do we do a new band? We demoed this material last summer and when we came back from North America in October/November, we started doing some of the mastering and felt there was some stuff in there that would be fantastic to play live, so we decided to use this material as the next Samael album. It’s more fresh, instinctive somehow. We called Nuclear Blast and they were thrilled about the idea, so we were like, “Let’s Go!” Wasn’t Above supposed to be a virtual death band?

Vorph: I don’t know…[laughs]. The thing is, the concept we came up with to market this music, we didn’t want to do it where we could go on tour, so the virtual band would have been fantastic. We thought we could do video shoots without being there, photo sessions without being there, we would just focus on the music. Actually, we got a little bit into that idea, but it would take a lot of time, plus the people involved in the animation side would be more involved in it then we would be. So we felt it would be better to take the idea and turn it into a Samael album. Above parallels your Ceremony of Opposites album, so could that be another reason whey it evolved into this?

Vorph: I’m not very sure how Xy feels about that idea…I just had three songs where he had them finished and sent to me [prior to recording]. When I was finished coming up with the vocals for those, he had three more, so it was one thing after another. I knew he wanted to do something very metal like this because in 2001 we had an electronic project that was totally different. I guess he needed something like this make a balance between the two things…something back to our roots. I’m not sure how much he connected to Ceremony, but I know he had a link to our first album, for example. The song “Darkside” is culled from “Black Faith” on the Worship Him album, so we modified the lyrics a little bit and the arrangements, but the song is pretty much the same. It’s a link into the past. How is the working relationship between you and Xy? Just judging by what you’ve been saying, it seems the two of you play off each other well.

Vorph: It’s very good. Since Ceremony, we started to know how to work together. I let go of the songwriting to him. I was doing music and lyrics, but on Ceremony, I came up with one song and the rest was him. I had more time to focus on lyrics and go deeper into the subjects and I felt fulfillment that I could express myself with words. It’s the best of both worlds. He can do whatever he wants with the music and I can do my thing with the lyrics . Per the lyrics, what was the focus this time out? I know you’ve touched on a variety of subjects over the years from outer space to the occult. Did you revert to your roots on these as well?

Vorph: Pretty much the same thing as the last two albums. I usually write things on the side, but for this album, I wrote them as things progressed. I didn’t dig deeper than before, it was just instinctive, like the music. It was a different way to do the same thing, somehow. The words are more crude; they’re less metaphorical, but I think that comes from the music being more focused, I guess. “Virtual War” appears to hint at your interest in technology vs. man.

Vorph: It came from two places, actually. Mas (bass) used to play lots of video game, like role-playing. I remember someone on TV, it was during the war in Iraq. You could see someone get their target, get their order and just explode the whole thing. But you got the feeling it wasn’t real. There was no connection there. There was no fighting man-to-man, it was technology somehow. That’s what gave me the idea. You make the connection between the video game and reality, which is still a video game because people are getting killed for real. How about “Earth Country?”

Vorph: It has to do with people losing connection with the earth. The real Shaman, the guy who tried to make a connection between a higher form of energy as an auxiliary thing. That’s the idea behind it. Actually, it fits well with the cover. It has somebody going into a higher sphere of thinking.

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