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.
Furious melodic black metal band Sammath, who meld elegant melodies with unrelenting aggression in the style of Immortal Battles in the North, will release its most recent album Godless Arrogance on pro-tape in the USA through Sylvan Screams Analog. Starting next week, copies of this legendary black metal revivalist album will make their way into stores and mailboxes across the New World.
Comments Sammath mastermind Jan Kruitwagen: “Three months after the CD and vinyl release via Hammerheart and a few weeks after the European tape release, Sammath proudly anounces Godless Arrogance on tape in the USA via Sylvan Screams Analog.” For more information about Sammath, visit the Sammath website.
Sammath first battered its way into black metal with the 1999 album Strijd which immediately turned heads for its archly inhuman beauty and crashing violence. This album expanded upon demos from several years before which were slowly refined before release, leading to a fully mature first album, which Sammath followed with three more albums before perfecting the fusion of its progressive, melodic and primal aggressive elements in Godless Arrogance.
Sammath combines the dark melodic understructure of black metal with the type of charging full-ahead death metal that Fallen Christ or Angelcorpse pioneered (which might descend from Morbid Angel’s “Thy Kingdom Come”). At this speed, the riff-salad approach of more traditional death metal would become a muddle, so the band focuses on a few ripping riffs per song and uses song structure deviations to incorporate entirely different riffs to create dialogue with the main verse-chorus pair and the Slayer-style introduction/transition riffs that accompany it.
Remarkably, Sammath has been consistent in this approach but have not found a voice for it until now. 1999’s Strijd showed an archly elegant melodic sense and underlying violence, but switched between the two much like later Entombed varied between pounding d-beat ambient riffs and architectures derived from John Carpenter soundtracks that showcased a spatial element to the music. During the early 2000s, two transitional albums Verwoesting/Devastation and Dodengang showed the band refining its rhythmic attack. Building on that past, Sammath went for guitar technicality and a more death metal approach to riffs on Triumph in Hatred but ended up losing the tendency to create an expansive spatial feel with complementary but radically different melodies in the death metal style, which uses riff to define context and then alters context for a type of continually evolving surprise ending.
Godless Arrogance features nearly constant high-intensity rhythmic riffing and finally has a production to match which emphasizes internal harmony but projects vocals and guitars to the forefront, creating an enveloping wall of sound. Drumming is violent martial battery without the happy kickbeat tendencies of overly rock-trained drummer; percussion here is more like punk, hard-driving intensity to channel the guitars, which alternate between abrupt chromatic confrontation in the Demoncy style to gentle unfolding melodies much like were found on Strijd. Bass folds into the guitar, and vocals are the high-volume bluster that reduces distorted vocals to a sound like a whisper spoken close to a microphone in high wind. The result is incessant and unrelenting but also has an inner life of melody that gives it depth and allows it to manipulate riff context like a death metal band while evoking ambient atmosphere in the best tradition of black metal.
“Godless Arrogance” will be released February 3, 2014 on Hammerheart Records.