Samael have a formidable back catalogue with a total of 11 albums, including ‘Hegemony’, out now on Napalm records. They have stood the test of time, moving from their black metal sound of ‘Ceremony of Opposites’ all the way back in 1994; to settle on what is best described as industrial metal with a distinct black metal flavour, weaved with symphonic moments and synthesiser flourishes. If you take a sideways perspective you could argue that Dimmu Borgir had taken their symphonic inspired chops from Samael, as they were doing a vaguely similar thing in 1996 with ‘Passage’ before Dimmu Borgir made ‘Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia’ in 2001.
Frustratingly, Samael are a band that have an embarrassment of riches in their back catalogue and have been pretty much consistent with each album they’ve released, but never entering the mainstream metal radar. Their music has tunes with enormous stompy choruses with hooks that stick in the brain for days, like a mutated Borg-esque Babelfish burrowing deep into your ears, latching on like a deliciously more-ish parasite. However, unlike bands of a industrial metal nature such as Rammstein and Deathstars, they lack the visual ‘eye candy appeal’ of looking like handsome PVC clad pyrotechnic wielding landed gentry, or fluffy haired gothic noire pretty boys. In an ideal world, Samael should be as big as these bands; touring enormous stadiums in every continent. Alas, in a style over substance driven world that even rears its head in the metal world, this will never be so.
Despite this, Samael press onwards consistently delivering the sonic goods, and ‘Hegemony’ is no exception. In fact, the album bristles with the vigour and passion of their earliest works; probably aided by their six-year absence. Even so, lesser bands with a similar quantity of albums under their belt usually become tired and jaded after a certain point in their career.
What immediately becomes apparent is how huge and expansive the album sounds, coming across with huge dramatic presence as soon as the title track “Hegemony” plays. It immediately commands the listener, throwing huge pummelling riffs and chest beating choruses that reach up skywards to dominate the sonic landscape that is immediately impressive. “Samael” is armed to the teeth with hooks, interlaced with fast paced riffs while tracks such as “Red Planet” and “Angel of Wrath” are beautifully interlaced with sweeping orchestral keyboards to add light and a sense of rhythm to searing industrial riffs.
“Black Supremacy” has traits that hark back to a more brutal black metal sound as heard on ‘Ceremony of Opposites’, that adds a layer of intensity to the album to even out the more keyboard heavy tracks which gives a sense of variety. Tracks such as “Murder of Suicide”, “This World”, and “Land of the Living” recall the stylistic aural queues prevalent on their later material, but sounding fresh and vital, as opposed to rehashing tracks from earlier albums in a cynical attempt to make money from old rope. “Dictate of Transparency” and “Helter Skelter” are fitting closers drawing on driving beats, Vorph’s growled vocals, and bludgeoning riffs.
What is particularly noteworthy of ‘Hegemony’ is the ability to make the listener return for repeated listens due to its rich and expansive nature, as opposed to being a quick fix to become something played for a couple of times to gather dust amongst your collection. For a band on its 11th studio album, this is a particularly impressive feat; especially if one hasn’t listened to a particular band for some years and lost track, wrongfully assuming they disappeared off the radar some time ago. ‘Hegemony’ will suit the fans of old who had erroneously forgotten about them, and work as a decent introductory point for people who have never heard of the band before. A deeply enjoyable album that you would be a fool to miss.
‘Hegemony‘ Track Listing:
3. Angel of Wrath
4. Rite of Renewal
5. Red Planet
6. Black Supremacy
7. Murder or Suicide
8. This World
9. Against All Enemies
10. Land of the Living
11. Dictate of Transparency
12. Helter Skelter
13. Storm of Fire (Bonus Track)
- Samael - 'Hegemony' - 8/108/10