Sammath have replaced their long term drummer, Koos Bos, with Wim van der Valk of Inquisitor.
Article by Corey M. A more skeptical take appeared last December.
Visions of Exalted Lucifer comprises the type of surefooted, almost passive confidence that a band like Cirith Gorgor can be expected to gain with as much experience as they’ve had in black metal. Experience (not to be confused with longevity, as many bands have been around for a long time yet never learned from their mistakes or successes) alone has no intrinsic merit but does provide for musicians a way of mapping their excursions into the imagination, so as not to become lost or distracted by pointless tangents on their flights of fancy. Rarely does a band hone their skills through experience without losing that primal virility that drove them to reckless discovery. Usually, one strength overcomes the other as time wears on. Cirith Gorgor like most any black metal band active from the early ’90s into the mid-’00s, began producing clean, smooth, uninspired-and-uninspiring music that never ventures far from familiar topical territory.
Cirith Gorgor show no signs of exhaustion from their long service in the war against all that is modern and mundane, even though their current method of composition exhibits a firm grasp of a decidedly contemporary style of black metal instrumentation. Featuring intricate guitar melodies that weave about one another like caducean serpents, this constant use of counterpoint achieves a delicate balance between consonant resolution and dissonant suspension. This relentless feeling of teetering between sappy harmonic indulgence and chaotic keyless atonality without the music ever succumbing to one extreme shows the guitarists’ songwriting prowess. A band riding this knife edge of tension with efficient agility inspires a nervous awe.
Emphasizing Cirith Gorgor’s fearless wont to take black metal techniques to their logical extremes, some interesting “progressive” bits appear in the album. First, during the main riff in the second track, “Visions of Exalted Lucifer”, there is a somewhat hesitant stutter in the middle of the crucial chord change, shifting the beat count into 9s rather than 8s. In one of the verses that build up to a more unifying crescendo in “Rite of Purification – Vanished from this World”, this reoccurs; The guitar melody rises and falls in an arrogant refusal to be subjugated by the simple 3/4 time signature. While many might think that such technical meddling would negatively impact the direct delivery that makes black metal great, this opinion is understandably misguided thanks to the unprincipled pseudo-prog tendencies that modern metal acts are likely to shoehorn into their otherwise bland songs. For Visions of Exalted Lucifer, these odd phrases and atypical harmonic mutations are actually necessary to lead each song through its natural ebb and flow. They sure each riff’s opening, closing, and transitionary moments are satisfyingly wrapped up without exception. The drummer deserves credit for deftly assisting the chemical reaction-like relationship of guitar melodies, playing aggressive bursts only as needed at any given time, providing traction for the motivating riffs and assuring that a song never spins its wheels.
Listening to this album can be psychologically draining. Due to the constant whirling spiral of guitar harmonies, it is impossible to guess whether some riffs will resolve on a consonant closing chord or introduce more tension by shifting into a new key with its own harmonic space. Almost always, a lead melody is playing over the rhythm chords and spiking out toward strange and uncomfortable modulations. Whether the modulation occurs or is only hinted at is also difficult and sometimes impossible to anticipate. The modulations are not random, they are enigmatic. The stressful ambiguity of any proceeding direction can leave the listener with the vision of Dune‘s Paul Muad-Dib after ingesting a high dose of spice for the first time being assaulted by the infinity of possibilities as every potential future unfolds indistinctly at once. The listener will probably either be annoyed, rejecting the perceived unreasonableness, or submit and allow themselves to be dragged along for the wild ride, coming away with glimpses into the strange depths of alienated human minds. This is not an album for passive listening; it is appreciably polarizing and meticulously crafted.
Visions of Exalted Lucifer may be listened to on Hammerheart’s Bandcamp.
Sammath have released a lyric video for “De Heidense Vlam Zal Branden” to promote the vinyl reissue of their debut album, Strijd, on Hammerheart Records. Strijd is more conventional than Sammath’s later albums and one of the best releases in the atmospheric, late nineties black metal style reminiscent of Summoning. Unlike their tawdry contemporaries, Sammath arranged primal tremolo-picked riffs with keyboard leads into narrative compositions. While the keyboards sometimes may seem a tad excessive today, the record succeeds in conjuring up romantic visions of dark age barbarity worthy of its Arthur Rackham cover. Those who enjoyed Kaeck’s Stormkult should take special note.
Cirith Gorgor bases its music around a strong vocal in the modern metal style of several emphatic syllables which then trail off, and this primary rhythm instrument propels the music forward. Underneath it flow melodic riffs which are not based on unique shape for its own ends, but fit around the rhythm of the vocals, approximating the style of later Emperor.
All of the familiar patterns are here: the sweeps, the gently falling melodic riffs, and the sawing upsurge riffs, and they are ordered in sensible songs. These songs do not particularly distinguish themselves from one another, nor evoke any type of emotion other than a general sense of feelings about the genre, but they are not random and are better assembled than the average. They resemble a sort of ongoing conversation that appears in different forms.
If this band has a weakness, it is reliance on the modern style of “yapping chihuaha” vocals. These are easier to follow than the old way, but place too many demands on the guitars for them to lead songwriting. The melodic hooks are pleasant and the discourse of songs orderly, but this band has a way to go before it expresses something like the power this genre has sleeping within it.
Dutch-German black metal band Sammath will re-issue its first album Strijd on Hammerheart Records during the first quarter of 2016. This under-appreciated classic has made fans for its enduring emotional and technical power. As our review at the time opined:
Sammath achieve a vast sonic landscape with this release that merges fast black metal riffing with elegant melodies that rise out of the chaos and return to mesh with its themes and transit to a final state which expands upon the conflict. On Strijd, riffs are heuristics which evolve over time as more texture emerges.
The result feels like a land constantly wracked by war and disaster in which brief moments of intense beauty emerge. The majority of riffing here is consistent with what one might expect from late-1990s black metal, which is a stripped down but highly genre-conventioned vocabulary. Unlike most bands Sammath fits these riffs together into a language that fits each song, and as such there are no random bits floating around for the purpose of being faithful to a template.
The emotional state of black metal is fragile because it is finely delineated and requires a great deal of background experience and understanding to parse. Sammath achieves the violence and yet arch beauty of black metal, a Romantic vision in which the lone thinker takes on the herd and triumphs by denying the human pretense which unites dying societies like our own. Strijd shows Sammath at simultaneously its most emotional and most violent. While not as technical as later releases from this band, Strijd won over fans for its plain-spoken truthfulness and elegant melodies.
A statement released by the band detailed the upcoming re-issue of Strijd:
Sammath to reissue debut LP on Hammerheart Records
In the first quarter of 2016 the long sold-out debut album “Strijd” from Sammath will be re-issued.
“Strijd” delivers black metal in high-powered generous doses but also maintains its introspective side, creating the perfect melancholic warrior album for a dying world.
The LP will be released on gold vinyl and is limited to 300 copies.
Many of us are also hoping for a CD re-issue so that new generations can own this powerhouse in a compact format.
Hammerheart Records has re-issued the classic of Swedish death metal Gardens of Grief by pioneering progressive death metal band At the Gates. The label issued the following statement:
At the Gates are one of those Swedish bands that doesn’t really need an introduction for anybody really eager enough to dig as deep as their first EP, Gardens of Grief, which was released in 1991 on Dolores Records.
Being one of the more distinct sounding bands from the whole original Swedish death metal scene, they have managed to spit out a couple of really great albums in the 90s, the pinnacle of their career being 1995’s “Slaughter of the Soul”.
What we have here lads is a chaotic mix between great song composition, one of metal’s best vocalists (in my humble opinion) screaming his shit out and pure maniacal death metal the way its supposed to be played. Right from the start of the first track you will get nothing less than a punch in your face, to the groin and to the balls. Tempo changes along with the massive output of riffs used work perfectly to create a unique atmosphere that sends you right to hell. This is one of those birth moments of a band that further defined the typical “Swedish sound” that most of us know as being a kind of mix between crunch and white noise. Every song has a very mature approach towards composition, not sounding very melodic, but dark, vicious and awestruck. This is fierce, ruthless death metal played by people who had a spark in them and wanted to play crazy music.
This EP is a very good example of how a rough start can prophesy a band’s great career with no absolute low point whatsoever and be a marker for good things to come.
For fans of: Grotesque, Dissection, Watain
Sammath unleashed its debut album Strijd in 1999 to not much fanfare. The black metal community had essentially collapsed under a wave of Dimmu Borgir/Cradle of Filth clones, and the underground had retreated to the Full Moon Productions board to re-style punk riffs as black metal and make boring music that is forgotten at this time. Almost no one wanted to simply keep their eye on what had worked and make it return.
As our review published at the time opined, however, Strijd succeeded because it conveyed both the elegance and violence of black metal, instead of becoming a top hatted children’s show satire focusing only on what the Thomas Kinkade fans of the world think is “elegant” (in America at least, every pretentious but incompetent person must have at least one Thomas Kinkade painting, Ansel Adams print, and dreamcatcher). Sammath brought back the ancient feeling, the meditative look at a life shrouded in darkness, and the misanthropy and intolerance for stupidity and lies that made black metal so satisfying in the midst of the lie-drenched 1990s.
Hammerheart Records has been focusing more of its attention on resurrecting classics and picking out modern bands with the same power, which seems to signal that the great metalcore trend is on the wane and people are looking for the kind of power they found in traditional metal genres, again. Strijd delivers this in high-powered generous doses but also maintains its introspective side, creating the perfect melancholic warrior album for a dying world. Although a date for the vinyl re-issue has not been specified, it is something to look forward to sometime in the latter half of 2015.
Kjeld tackles black metal by drawing a line through all of the bands to capture the concept through history and then pulling out the best and adapting it to a local sound, producing a band that alternates between mid-paced and high speed melodic black metal that balances its pleasant sounds with savage primitive riffing. The result introduces enough variation that melody serves as a technique within a palette, and brings out the implications of the phrases of the more chromatic riffing, allowing songs to mature into a clear perspective rising above the chaos.
The closest comparison to this band may come from second-wave bands like Kvist and Setherial, who shortened the longer melodies of Emperor and Burzum and focused on longer songs that brought forth the full melody later in it, more like the cosmic ambient music that inspired much of black metal. Similarly, Kjeld like to begin songs with a theme that develops in clash with more brutally straightforward riffing, then let it develop in order to be obliterated, then be reborn in its final form leading to re-interpretation of the initial theme. This effect works remarkably well as it allows songs to have the intensity of Zyklon-B (the band) with an endpoint like the flowing moments from Eucharist or Ancient, albeit in a style of melody that fits more in the local area from which this band came, much as the Sinister Diabolical Summoning brought forth a sense of if not ancestral at least familiar melody.
Skym maintains its intensity throughout the album mostly by varying tension internally in songs so that despite the high rate of fire the music never falls into a sonic wallpaper of uniform consistency that, even if intense, loses its power by becoming predictably so and relegating itself to a kind of drone. Instead, these songs develop as their own creations, and song structure varies moderately as a result, producing a series of listening experiences that put together create a power greater than the mere sum of their parts. Without putting itself in a camp or time period, Kjeld upholds the strength of black metal in both savagery and beauty, making this album the rare uncompromising listening experience that voices itself in a style fitting both its own experience and the ideal of the genre.
Hammerheart Records will re-issue Swedish black/heavy/death metal band Grotesque In the Embrace of Evil plus the first release of the band which shortly succeeded it, At the Gates Gardens of Grief. These will be released on vinyl on August 21, 2015.
Grotesque, like Merciless, Morbid, Slaughter Lord, Tormentor (Hungary) and Sarcofago, represented an interstitial state in black metal where bands still in the style of older speed/death like Possessed moved into a sound that approximated black metal without the musical developments of the full genre as came bursting out of Norway shortly afterwards.
When members of Grotesque moved on to form At the Gates, they took their music more in a direction of melodic black metal, starting with their first EP, Gardens of Grief, which showcases their unconventional approach to songwriting and solid melodic development.
Dutch metal label Hammerheart Records announced that it would release three releases from Brazilian band Mystifier, Wicca (1992), Göetia (1993) and The World Is So Good That Who Made It Doesn’t Live Here (1996). The first two of those releases constitute the essential works from this band and its greatest historical impact during the fertile 1989-1994 period of black metal.
All three albums will be released in deluxe vinyl and compact disc editions after an unspecified remastering treatment. The label also intends to release a live album on DVD plus compact disc or vinyl sometime in 2015. Describing the arrangement as a “long-term agreement,” the label and band seem to have hammered out a distribution deal for present and possibly future works, since Mystifier has been active again over the last decade after a long absence.
Starting their musical career just after the Norse boom in black metal in the early 1990s, Mystifier appealed to the raw and primitive side of the new genre explored by other tyrants such as Sarcofago, Blasphemy, Impaled Nazarene and Beherit. Their primal and uneven hymns created a destabilizing force even as the hip kids mustered themselves to make slick versions of the new genre. As we enter the second decade of elevator black metal, this infusion of unsystematic hatred should help even the score.