S A M A E L are a Swiss metal band who have transcended their black metal roots to morph into one of the most forward thinking metal bands on the planet. With the impending release of the bands new album Hegemony, we caught up with the bands guitarist and vocalist Vorph to hear all about the album, the bands touring plans, side projects, black metal and industrial influences and more.
Your new album Hegemony is out soon. How did the recording of the album go?
The recording was done over a span of a year, the demo version of the songs were done in 2013 then Xy got asked to compose some music for Sion, the city we’re coming from. It took him a year to finish that project but it alows us to come back to the album with fresh ears.
Is the albums title in direct reference to anything in particular?
Hegemony is also the title of the opening track, we’ve chosen it as the title of the album because we feel like this album rules over everything we’ve done before, it is a statement of our time.
The album is quintessential S A M A E L with powerful vocals, crushing riffs and the huge symphonic elements. When you are making an album do you make sure that those elements are in place to get the full Samael experience with your distinct sound?
You’re right to say it is quintessential S A M A E L as it has all the elements that make our sound what it is. It was not something we planned, it came naturally. Our producer Waldemar Sorychta came back to Switzerland and coach me during the recording of the vocals, last time he did that was for the recording of Passage twenty years ago.
The symphonic element of S A M A E L obviously still plays a big part in the bands sound. Do you think that this is crucial to Samael?
It is an important element of our sound but it is more present on our new album than, let say on Eternal for example. We’ve try to develop some of the things we did before and present them under a new light.
What are some of the subjects you tackle on the album?
From all the albums that we did, Hegemony is the one which is the most in the zeitgeist, it reflects the world as it is today. There is also the idea of change, of rebirth with songs like Rite Of Renewal or Land Of The Living, as well as more introspective song like Against All Enemies.
This album marks thirty years for Samael as a band. What have been the highlights in that time?
Through three decades, we had had a few highlights, they’re mainly first times: first album, first tour, first time in a country but somehow, we’ve build this album to be our bigest highlight so far.
When you started the band, did you think you would be going for this long as a band?
We didn’t think in term of time but in term of achievement. We wanted to record an album and do a tour, once we did that, we just wanted to do this again but better and that has never changed.
My first exposure to Samael and to black metal was the video for Baphomets Throne when it was shown on Headbangers Ball and was immediately drawn to it. Do you think that video played a big part in Samael getting more and more exposure?
That was pre-internet time and beside playing shows, having a video played on MTV or VIVA in Germany was the only way to reach a bigger audience. I think it help spreading the word of our existence and it make that song a “must play “ at our concerts.
That song especially had the black metal sound but also those symphonic elements that really got my attention. Was that symphonic element crucial to how you wanted the band to sound at that time and have carried on doing it?
We had keyboards tracks before but Ceremony of Opposites is our first album where every songs has keyboards parts. The title track was actually compose around the keyboards line and the guitar were added afterward. We wanted our sound to be massive.
You played the Ceremony Of Opposites album in full live a couple of years ago. How was it revisiting and playing the album fully after all these years?
I was not crazy about the idea of playing a whole album live until we did it ourselves. It was great just rehearsing those songs, some of them we hadn’t play for ages. It was a good experience to share and a good way to boost the synergy within the band.
The video for Jupetarian Vibe from your album Passage got a lot of airplay as well. Have you always found that videos for your songs are an important tool and do you still feel that way?
As I said before, in those time, it was primordial to have a video in order to get people attention. We probably reached more people with one airplay on Headbangers Ball than with a whole tour.
How do you feel about the rise of social media in the music business nowadays?
For a band, it is mandatory to be present on social media nowaydays , those who aren’t, don’t exist for a lot of people. For us it has to stay a tool, we don’t want to be turned into a tool that serves social media.
Did you get any criticism from die hard black metal fans when you incorporated different elements that weren’t black metal into your sound?
We never pay much attention to criticism, we’re not trying to please everyone. In the early 90’s having a keyboards in the band was already considered offensive to some.
What was your introduction into the world of black metal?
Venom was my gateway to black metal, I had their two first album before I found out about Bathory and Hellhammer. Venom started it all!
What was the Swiss metal scene like when you were starting out? Hellhammer and Celtic Frost must have been a big influence.
There weren’t many bands around. Celtic Frost and Coroner were pioneer on the international scene but we also had more underground bands who released an album like Messiah or Excruciation. We actually cover a song from Hellhammer on our first EP Medieval Prophecy.
As a band you have had industrial influences for a long time. What was it that interested you about that music in the first place?
I think industrial music and metal mix well together, Ministry and Godflesh both used distorted guitar early on and it seemed like a natural thing to incorporate industrial elements in our music.
You recently played at Exit Festival. How did that show go?
It went well, it is the biggest festival Serbia with many different stages and different type of music from electronic to reggae to punk and metal.
You have a number of festival dates coming up including Brutal Assault in the Czech Republic and then the California Deathfest in Oakland and the Festival Del Diablo in Bogota, Columbia. Do you approach festival appearances differently to your own shows and which do you prefer playing?
I like both, we play longer set in our own shows so we have more time for deep cuts. It is always nice to confront our music to people who are new to it and festivals are the best place for that.
If Samael could play a festival with any five bands of your choice. Who would you pick to play with?
I would try to have some diversity, Triptykon, Laibach, Electric Wizard, Gojira, Ihsahn
What are your other touring plans for the rest of the year?
Beside the festivals you mentioned earlier, we’ll do a few shows in Italy, Switzerland and Germany. We’ll tour next year before the festival season.
Will you be playing much new material?
We already play three new songs and will add a few more once the album is out.
What us your favourite song to play live?
That is changing all the time but generaly it’s always a kick to play a song live for the first time.
How are things going with your new record label Napalm Records?
So far so good, they love the album and give us a lot of attention.
You previously covered Depeche Mode’s I Feel You on the Reign Of Light album and Alice Coopers I Love The Dead on the Rebellion EP. Which other songs would you like to give the Samael treatment?
We though about a few song we could cover, this time we did Helter Skelter by The Beatles.
Can you tell us a bit about your W.A.R side project?
We’ve only played two show so far, the project consists of us four only focusing on S A M A E Ls two first albums. Worship Him and Blood Ritual. We might do some more show in the future.
Will there ever be an album from W.A.R at all?
Only time will tell…