Sammath – Across the Rhine is only death (2019)

Sammath returns to the days of its second and third album with a shredding assault that emphasizes tight, technical riffing that keeps to a simple theme and develops it with precision strumming integrated with exacting percussion. This takes the war metal idea into the technical death metal realm while preserving the black metal sense of melody and epic architectures to unite these alienated and reductive riffs.

Across the Rhine is only death attempts to synthesize the last five Sammath albums, from the elegant and elitist Strijd, to the more all-out assault of Verwoesting/Devastation and Dodengang, the technical and more atmospheric Triumph in Hatred and the death/black cerebral melodic rage of Godless Arrogance. It succeeds in that it ties together the shredding riffs of the early career of this promising band with a smaller dose of technical riff interludes, but keeps the overall forward momentum found on the previous and first albums.

Its raw approach sounds like Bathory sped up to Angelcorpse speeds but anchored in complex dragging riffs like Immolation with the lazily descending melodies of early Immortal, underneath searing vocals that aim more to goad on the drums and guitars that take center stage. Much of this will appeal to early Morbid Angel fans, since Sammath enjoy a good complex rhythm hidden behind a relentless hammering of variations of a three-chord declaration.

From war metal, Across the Rhine is only death borrows the noisy and charging combination of rigid drums with fast strumming between the chord changes of straightforward riffs hooked into rhythmic pockets which use fractions of the rhythms of the rest of the song to foreshadow changes. It avoids the grinding pointless repetition of that genre by mixing in the technical death metal and black metal melodies which give context to the grind and maintain energy instead of running down into pounding repetition.

As far as the evolution of this band, this album offers a culmination of all that has come before but hints of what may also come. The melodies of Strijd hide in there in shorter form, and may eventually come out because atmospheric riffs only make savage shredding more intense. Even more, the divide between the structuralist precision of death metal and the soaring nearly ambient compositions of black metal has been evened out, giving Sammath a vocabulary to develop further.

Across the Rhine is only death describes the frenzied battles in the final days of the second world war, and to emphasize this theme, the wooden box version of the album comes with shell casings dug up from the battlefield. In its focus on the evil in man, without politicizing it, this album delivers a view of the future struggle of humanity to get itself sane without neutering itself, as portrayed in a celebration of violence that preserves the existential dread of tragedy and violence.

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11 thoughts on “Sammath – Across the Rhine is only death (2019)”

  1. FuckYourMother says:

    You’re reviewing this album almost 3 months before it gets released? Doesn’t really serve any purpose if we can’t hear it until then huh?

    1. If I could, I would stream the whole thing, but as it is, there is a sample track for you to hear.

    2. Trust me, dumbfuck says:

      You just have to Believeā„¢


      Godless Arrogance itself was originally reviewed 3 months in advance as well it would appear.

    4. Mormon Angel says:

      My nigga- what purpose would this review serve if we COULD hear this album right now?

      Your shit is illogical. Be grateful for any insights.

  2. Altarboys of Madness says:

    Brette, you just wrote Bathory, Angelcorpse, Immolation, Immortal, and Morbid Angel (like whom Angelcorpse sounds)… this sounds fucking dope. Meanwhile, I’ve only heard ‘Godless Arrogance’ and I’m still trying to cope.

    1. I hope that more sample tracks make it out. Apparently they are forthcoming.

  3. Cynical says:

    I haven’t heard the rest, but that single is one hell of a disappointment. From militant but still melodic black metal with surprising depth in its harmonies to Angelcorpse without the ferocity; what happened?!

    1. metal is symbolism not romanticism says:

      Apparently many listeners here are enamored by Sammath because this song is very obviously weaker than anything they’ve released yet, but almost nobody will say so. Maybe it’s “four good albums” syndrome or maybe Sammath are just tired of creating riffs and have resigned to going through the established motions, because this sounds like a simulacrum of Godless Arrogance.

    2. Flying Kites says:

      Godless Arrogance had songs set up as moods. This is certainly a bitter song, if staid.

  4. Cynical says:

    Second single up. Much more of what I expect from Sammath; better than the first one.

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