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Through the years the Swiss guys from Samael evolved from an authentic black metal band to a collective with proclivity to industrial, while they did not shun the use of electronics and drum machine. Nevertheless the guitars are mixed ultimately in the front on their newest album 'Solar Soul' and we may even speak of a return of the guitars in the music of Samael, without establish any style rupture with the former album 'Reign Of Light'. In brief, the men hailing from the Alps have made another excellent album that deserves our full attention. Lords of Metal had a long talk with vocalist Vorph who turned out to be a very open-hearted, friendly conversation partner.

By: Vera | Archive under industrial / ebm

band imageThree years have gone by since your previous album 'Reign Of Light' came out. Is the new material written spread over those three years or in a short amount of time later?
After the release of 'Reign Of Light' we went on tour in Europe first, in 2005 we only did festivals a little bit before and during the summer and we started to make time for the writing of the new album at the end of 2005. But we did tour early January 2006, so we stopped focusing on the album for a while when going on tour. In February we continued.

It was a pretty long recording process with prolongations…
We started in July and first all went well, but we booked a couple of concerts in between. Every time we had to stop for a concert it almost takes one week off from the studio time, because we had to rehearse the old songs, we had the new songs and this is not a same mind setting. Being in the studio – at least for us – is more an intellectual kind of work. We are thinking about what to do with our stuff. Playing live is much more instinctive, you don't think, you just go for it. There is a kind of switch from one side to the other, which is okay to do, but you got to re-adapt. We kind of lost time with that situation there, but at the same time it was refreshing as well to have some gap in between.

And was it a smooth recording process this time or did you struggle with things?
No, it was kind of cool. We did it the same way as we did 'Reign Of Light', recording at home, except for 'Solar Soul' we actually went to another studio that we never went before, just for the vocals and a part of the drums and cymbals. That is recorded in a different place. The guitars were recorded at Albertine which is actually the studio Mas owns with a friend of him and they record usually demo tapes for different bands and stuff. The rest is done at Xy's home studio, all the computer things he does by himself, he doesn't need to go somewhere else.

And was Waldemar Sorychta involved?
Yes, he came back just before the recording. We did it the same way as usual. We made all the songs until they were finished, then we called Waldemar. He came here and checked all the songs with us, giving advice. We worked almost every album with him, except the first one and 'Eternal'. So we know each other pretty well and somehow we can anticipate about what he might say about a song. So there is a part of the work that he does not have to do anymore. When he comes it makes sense. We learned with the time. But still he is always having some kind of sparkling ideas here and there and it is always nice to have an outside view of your material. Cause when working on it, at one point you don't hear it anymore. You just wonder is it good or not? You cannot tell. That's when the view of someone outside is helpful.

And to help you with the ever-changing technical equipment…
That makes a part of it a lot easier. It is easier to record, but that means you want to do better. Sometimes you record a guitar part a lot more times than you have done in the past and you come to a point when you are overdoing it. You might lose a little bit of spontaneity.

The mix was done in Stockholm, isn't it?
Yes once again. It was done by Stefan Glaumann. Just like 'Reign Of Light'. He worked with different bands like Rammstein and Within Temptation.

You are known for programmed drums, drum machines… but on this record are also real drums I have heard…
Yes, a part of it. There are things we have re-recorded extra. It is over-complex. That was Waldemar's idea to have real drums. We were just thinking “does it make any sense?” To his feeling that would make the song livelier, so we tried it on a couple of songs, but we still going to work with the drum machine live anyway.

I am quite impressed about your live gigs. It seems very complex.
(hesitates) I don't know, not more complex than other music I think. At least we know the drums are going to be on time (laughs). You cannot escape this, but still we have to play as good as we can to make it all happen hehe.

Can you tell a bit more about the lyrics? Is there a kind of concept or thread?
Sure. There is some kind of subject that I have dealt with all through Samael's history. This is about personal quest. About a way to define ourselves or even prove ourselves. This is a big part of the new recording as well. But besides this side of Samael which people already know, we have different things we had not before, like we got a song called 'Valkyries' New Ride' which is actually a song I wrote about war. The fire-starter for that song was the war in Iraq, but it is not about that war particularly, just about war in general. And I have tried to give my point of view about it. Of course not by doing a pro-war song, but I didn't want to do an anti-war song either because I didn't want to preach anything. This is something we never treated before and there might have been on a couple of songs a sort of political undertone. Not that the songs are political, but a song like 'Slavocracy' has been inspired by the society we are living in at the moment, which is a subject that we never dealt with before.

In the beginning the general penchant was very black, but since 'Reign Of Light' it becomes a bit lighter, or am I wrong?
Even before that. The real change goes back to the 'Passage' time probably. As you mentioned, as teenagers we were very much influenced by bands like Bathory, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Venom and so on. This is what we wanted to do. A kind of dark, gloomy music with a universe attached to it and I think – at least that is my feeling - that when we released 'Ceremony Of Opposites' we succeeded in having this as good as we wanted it to be. After that we had a sort of feeling like… we could have done this again, of course, but in order to develop, to go further, we had to get over it in a way. And I think 'Passage' was the first attempt to go from where we were at that time - mentally and intellectually – one step further. It took time, but step after step we evolved to what we are now. It takes time, because we are not a band that goes with the trends or anything, we had to learn ourselves what the next step was going to be. It needs a sort of maturation.

And it is better for the fans otherwise they are shocked by the brusque turn…
We don't mind that too much actually, because even though it took time for us to evolve to the point where we are standing at the moment, it has been considered by many as brusque change. People who actually follow the evolution of the band, they had to be open-minded people; they had to accept certain things. I heard some people were expecting us even to experiment more than we did. They compared: okay, it was a big step from this album to this album, now it has to be the same with the next but it isn't the case. In order to carry on you have to be sure that at least it fits the personality of the band which is always a kind of melting pot, because we are four people, directly involved in the band. We had to find ourselves as well.

Do you all have a very different taste in music?
I can almost listen to anything. It is the case with the four of us actually, but when it comes down on a more metal thing, we have different tastes yes, and that is probably a part of the sound that we create.

Can you tell anything of the symbolism of the artwork?
What we did not want to have on the cover was something spacey once again, because we had the feeling that we have done this before. There were sorts of misinterpretations especially with 'Eternal' actually. Because to me, 'Eternal' was supposed to represent the inner universe and that was pretty much a metaphor for the inside world. Some people thought that it was about space travelling or whatever. It is something we wanted to put aside, especially since our ancient record company came up with some planets and so again. We don't want to be known to folks as the guys in the stars, we belong here. That was the first thing we decided. Then we did a lot of different things. We started working with somebody, which was totally different than the one we got at the moment. Then a friend of ours, but especially a friend of Makro, the guitar player, proposed us something we kind of liked, he changed it from time to time and eventually came up with something very similar to what we actually chose. But then we had to work it out. We had at least ten different options of the cover we chose. The guy who did it is the drummer of the band Makro is playing with.

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New is that you signed a deal with Nuclear Blast. The former one 'Reign Of Light' was on Regain Records and I remember you were glad that it was for only one record, because you never wanted such a long-term deal anymore as with Century Media. But now it is for more records again…
It is for more yeah, but not for too many (laughs). It is manageable. On the other side I got a good feeling with Nuclear Blast. I mean, they really do a good job and they are passionate people, they are really serious about what they are doing, so… that makes us a lot more comfortable. We signed for two different albums with them for America, because 'Reign Of Light' was actually with Nuclear Blast in America. The new one would have been with them anyway in America. It kind of made sense to have the whole world covered by them.

But on Century Media, things keep coming out, so it seems…
Yeah, they own our back-catalogue; this is the kind of deal we'd signed.

Cause there was a kind of “Best Of…” released again…
That's the one I mentioned before, yeah, where they used that kind of space cover again. But I think that best of turned out not that bad, I kind of liked it. They told us they would do it; there would be no discussion about it. Either we would let them do it the way they want it or we would have an input. We rather have something good out if it has to be released one way or another. I am happy with the result.

How do you look back on 'Era One'?
This is something totally different. We did this project before 'Reign Of Light'. We delivered it to Century Media. That was the conclusion of the contract. But they did not want to release it, so we went on and released 'Reign Of Light' and then eventually they decided to release it. We asked them to have the chance to re-work it a little bit – because two years later you always see things that should have been differently – and we remixed the whole thing before they released it.

What I like in Samael are the oriental influences in the music. Can you tell a bit more about this fascination for the East?
Yes, I like it a lot. This is not a part of my musical background. It is not the kind of music I would listen to at home or I listened to when I was a teenager. It came later on. I don't have any reference with that music; it is not a solid ground to me. So it is kind of really open to imagination, to different things. A lot of different images come to my eye when I hear those kinds of sonorities and I like it a lot. Especially when we have a song like 'Quasar Waves' on the new album on which we had the sitar played by Sami Yli-Sirniö again. He is the guitar player of Waltari. He is also playing in Kreator, the German thrash band. He did play on 'Reign Of Light' as well. I am glad that we succeeded in keeping this element.

But you have been to India as well I think, isn't it?
That is a long time ago, but yes, I have been there. It was early 1996. That was really an important voyage that I did, probably the most striking place I visited so far. We have travelled a little with the band and we met different cultures, but there… at least for me I did not have any landmark. I did not find any contact-points to what I knew. It was all new. Almost like another planet I would say. I enjoyed that a lot.

Are there plans for a videoclip this time?
Yeah, we actually did it! Just last week we recorded a clip for 'Slavocracy'. We were in Germany and did it there. It is the first time since we start that we did a videoclip where we all appear in. We had some footage from live stuff before, but when it comes down on a videoclip, it is the first time we all appear.

I got the impression that this album is heavier than the previous works, or am I wrong?
I think so as well, especially with the guitars. This was one of the things we thought about when we start working at 'Solar Soul': the guitar was a bit missing. When we play live there were quite a lot of people coming to us after the show, saying that the songs they knew from 'Eternal' or 'Reign Of Light' were sounding a lot heavier in concert than on the record. We wanted to have something – not similar to a live environment – but a little bit towards that direction. So we thought about mixing the guitars louder and working more on the guitar sound. Probably it will take some time before I read this, but this is the album where we have done guitar things we have never done before.

Can we expect Samael on stage soon?
Wacken Open Open is confirmed since a long time, August last year when the former edition was just done (laughs). It is the fourth time we are going to play there. Concerning touring, we are still working on it right now, checking the best opportunities, the best tour possibilities. We are working on something for about October at the moment. But first we have a lot of festivals.

On the special edition one can find a bonus track 'Architect'.
This is the last song we composed for the album. It is a bit different, maybe a bit darker than the rest of the album. I really like the song personally, but we were not sure if it did fit the album. Even though there is up and down, bright and darker sides on the album right now, I thought it was pretty much too dark. We did not know where to put it. In the beginning of the album it would destroy the whole energetic atmosphere, in the middle would be the same because once you hear it you don't feel like hearing anything else (laughs), I don't know… I think it is going to be on the digipack and on the first edition as last track.

You once played in Israel…
Two years ago in Tel Aviv.

Was it a special event?
It was just a concert, not a tour actually. We just went there for one show. We stayed one day more because we wanted to visit Israel. We went to Jerusalem. It was the first time I was there and quite interesting, yeah.

What about your own label?
We did not do this in order to sign other bands. The new album is going to be released through our label and through Nuclear Blast. Before it was through us and Regain. Like a license. This time it is: for the world Nuclear Blast, except Switzerland where we work with another company.

Are you going to do some remixes like you sometimes do?
It is not planned now but I think Xy might work on that kind of things. If he has time he will probably try to do something, yes. He is speaking about this all the time. For him, he would probably stay in the studio and remix all the albums in a different way haha. But… pfff… we got to do some new stuff and I don't think people are much interested to listen to remixes, I don't know. Maybe some of them. I mean, I like it, but I can't speak for everyone I suppose.

Is some of you involved in other bands or projects?
Well, as I mentioned before, Makro has got his own band, because he was in that band before joining us and they are still together. They are called Sludge and actually recorded a new album which is going to be released, I think in September or so. For us, we don't really have much time to do something else.

Thanks a lot for your time Vorph. Let's occlude with your wishes for the rest of the year…
We hope 'Solar Soul' will receive a good echo from the people! Let's hope the best!

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