Above (Nuclear Blast)
By Mike Delano
Like being run over by a horde of rampaging bulls, listening to Above is an endurance test, as it’s a relentless, thrashing beast that barrels endlessly forward and rarely slows down. Its fury hits with even more impact since Samael for many years have been eroding their fan base with ever more pop and Goth-oriented electronic sounds and hammy compositions, in contrast to their harsher early works, or the industrial black metal sounds of their crowning achievement, 1996’s Passage. Nothing on that album has the same wall-of-sound battery found here, but then again, nothing on Above is as memorable as classics like “Rain” or “Jupiterian Vibe.” It’s a satisfying one-dimensional assault if you’re in the mood, and the adventurous can listen close for the very brief snippets when the band cuts loose (“Earth Country,” “On The Top Of It All”). Since the material on this album was originally intended to be released as a side project, it’s unlikely that Samael’s next album will follow this hellbound trail any further, but that’s not a bad thing: Their sweet spot is somewhere between the two extremes.