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.