First of all: when taking a first look at the entire album it seems like some things have changed at Sammath: for the first time since your 'Visions Upon Winterlands' demo from 1995 (with one Dutch song title) you have gone back to English titles: is that so that the new guitarist Magnus Agliareth can also understand what the songs are all about?
The poor bastard speaks hardly English, so that is not the reason, haha. Magnus is a hell of a guy and indicates as well which direction Sammath is heading now: METAL! Black metal, death metal, a bit of thrash metal, heavy metal and all of this with a layer upon it of black metal regarding performance and vocals. I will never leave the path of extreme black metal, but I add influences from my youth to that. Nevertheless it will always be regarded by some as pointless noise; good for them, please do stay away as far as you can from black metal.
And this opening questions creates a bridge to the new axeman, Magnus Agliareth. When hearing him on the new album, a name like Alex Skolnick pops into my head immediately. So here's your chicken and egg-question, what came first: the desire to introduce a higher level of guitar playing into the music, or did Magnus entering the band bring those new elements of guitar playing?
Nice comparison. Magnus' work is really magnificient. His riffing is not his specialty, yet when this guy starts to play solos he brings a level which 99,9% of all guitarists can only dream about, unknown! So he does not write riffs. I have written the songs including the riffs like a rhythm instrument and actually told him after that where there should be placed solos. Of course he came up with an idea where to put 'm and after a considerable amount of beer we came to a solution.
Personally I think that Magnus' guitar skills are the big chance when comparing it to previous releases. Since you guys have been busy much more with this new material, how would you describe the major development of 'Triumph In Hatred' yourself?
More variation in guitar and vocals, adding of solos and faster and more varied drums. Even if you don't agree to that last one, but: do me a favor and listen to the drum rolls once more. For the rest, it only got faster and louder. The atmosphere we managed to lay down is exactly, or even more than, what I had in mind. The songs have a more clear built-up, and there has been put more time into the texts, lyrics and all. As boring as it may seem to read a one-liner like this, but this is our best album so far!!! I even have hesitations about starting on a new CD, as it will be hard for me to top this.
I happen to know Sammath for quite some time now, through the shop State Off Art Metalstore, as a typical war black metal band. Ferocious, not too many frills and crude as hell. When hearing the new material it is hard to match the new guitar work with those old Sammath elements: am I the only one, and can you understand what I mean?
Well, I totally disagree on that one. In comparison to earlier work this is faster and more ferocious than ever before. Yet because of the fact of Magnus throwing in those death/ thrash metal solos it just sounds completely different. 'Dodengang' was considerably less brutal and contained more melody. More atmosphere and more calm passages. It is filthier now and especially louder. At home I also listen to raw black metal, say from the nineties. Yet to bring that into our music, which means without an own identity, no: stagnation is death!
We have already spoken about the new guitarist; I understood from your correction that Magnus is now with the band on a steady basis and that he was not a hired gun for the studio. What does this mean to the live line-up of the band, is Hanna still in for example?
Hanna is part of the live line-up. Next year we will perform again, a tour of one or two weeks, and I can't tell at this moment with whom. Sammath's core is me and Koos. What it will look like on stage, is always the question. Magnus is with Sammath now and so is Hanna live, this is something we have to talk over some more. Luckily everybody has his or her own band, which at least gives them a sound platform to rehearse. Within Sammath, all decisions are made by me, period. Only Koos has some participation in this. If he really dislikes something, then it is :out of the window” with this idea. Ruud has been with the band also for quite some time now, so he also brings in remarks that I will take into consideration or on which I might make some adjustments. If you write the music always by yourself, some help with arranging it all is not a bad thing at all. On the other hand I do not have to go through the eternal blabbering, as I do as I please. I think the creative process works faster this way, I can throw away ten riffs a day without having to answer the comment first, and I can move on.
The one person least happy with my review I drummer Koos I guess: in the review I wrote that is sounded very machine-like, where as you stated that simplicity happens to be his style. Can I still walk around safe in Nijmegen (the place where the band has its center – Neithan) and surroundings?
Well, I live in Germany so no troubles from me to bother. I will leave this question to Koos. Although I think your review to be a bit weak and non-saying, the drums have been extremely well done. If it is not your taste, fine, but adding too much of your own taste to a review is not your job. I have written for magazines myself as well and I know how hard it is, so I can not blame you for that. Nevertheless, this is a way of drumming: loud and merciless. Few people can uphold this…
Koos: “You paint a (justified) picture that Sammath plays “warlike black metal characterized by machine-like drums” and that you get the feeling that it is done by a machine nonetheless: “fat as hell and massive”: I regard this as a compliment. I have played in the CD in the Sammath style and we as a band are very happy with the end result. It is always wise to check first before crossing the road, haha, but to worry about me when crossing the road seems a bit too much… In the first strophe of the review you write that our style has not really got your preference… To each his own! I think that Sammath has made a huge step forward with “Triumph In Hatred”: both as a band and me as a drummer. Everything has been recorded without triggers and on an acoustic drumming kit, and we spent a considerable amount of time on the drums, especially to make them sound like they do now. And so I am very happy with the entire end result.”
The sound of the new album is beyond doubt(s). I understood that you postponed the recordings so that you could once more work with Peter Neuber as mixer. I don't know whether this story is correct, yet indeed Neuber participates on the new album. Why is he the man to you for this kind of work?
Thanks. Peter is a very great guy to work with. Apart from that, the guy understands exactly what sound and feeling Sammath wants to put down on a record. It all sounds brutal in an insane way and nevertheless you can hear back everything. It almost sounds as if it will burst: Fat drums, raw guitars, the bass is easy to be heard back and the vocals have a balanced place in it all as well. This is not just due to Peter's mix, but also thanks to the mix of Bigmouth studio in Nijmegen.
Sammath has been with Folter Records for already four albums: I think a fitting label regarding the genre of Sammath. Usually Folters signs bands for one album with an option for a possible follow-up. Do you have a similar contract or you among the happy few with the luxury of a deal for more albums?
We are among the happy few and as such we do have that luxury. I signed the first time in 1997, for an album as a matter of fact. After that we signed for two albums and before the release of 'Dodengang' for three more, so I have some albums to go. I can always sign extra. Furthermore I have no intention to sign anywhere else, unless it regards rereleasing demo material or the vinyl edition of an album. For instance, French Wolfsrune has released all demos on tape, and they only release tapes, great. The guy behind that label does not even have internet, the fossil, haha: the attachment to the old style is strong with him. Furthermore, Apollon Records will release the lp of 'Triumph In Hatred' and to see your own album in a list surrounded by names like Bolt Thrower, Carcass and Nevermore is great. Also, we are on several compilation albums and tapes which are all due to come out this or the next year. The new generation of black metal is only known to me through the internet, yet I always get in to touch with new Dutch magazines and labels, which also enables me to hear new bands. Everybody has to start somewhere somehow, although the scene is very volatile these days. Many labels and magazines that did a review of 'Verwoesting' at that time, are no longer around. Black metal has become a phase to some, or a fun small trip.
In spite of my comment I do have a positive remark as well: “In this style, the band has grown into one of the better acts”. Does that help, or is this genre such a small niche that result from the past do not offer certainties for the future, for instance regarding shows, running order on a festival bill and other matters?
I do not perform that often, most of the times I have seen it playing the same songs all over. I just pick out the interesting shows, most of the time I have had after about five shows or so. I prefer to be in the pit or close to it with a beer. When active since 1994, wel, people know what you are all about. Sammath sells quite well. We could perform on “Under The Black Sun” as the fifth band on Saturday at the time in 2007, but that lasted too long for me so we went for the third spot on Friday. In the first place, I make music for myself. It is very rewarding when people appreciate it and of course it is good to read positive reviews so that you can see people dig your music. Yet that is not what makes me tick, it is underground black metal, something you have to do for yourself. A few years ago there was some dickhead on Hollands Metaal (there are so many of them) who was pretty sure that Sammath was playing to get famous (once more, we are dealing with underground black metal here) or to score chicks. Unfortunately, I reacted to this… And there are more no-good internet warriors around. When taking a closer look, the scene is not that tight, and nobody allows anything to someone else: well, screw most of this wankers. Nevertheless and thanks for that, there are still plenty of bands and people I have been in touch with for years. The spamming on the internet is pathetic as a matter of fact, and if you meet such a person in real life than such a person does not have the guts to address you in person. Sammath has a sound reputation, especially outside of the Netherlands. Whether I found a niche or not does not matter to me: I happen to make black metal, and I have been doing so for years now. It is more than a hobby. IN this respect I am not about Satan or dark forests, because Sammath is about dark realism, war and ego, own strength and destruction. Early 1994 I just played what I heard: the first Gehenna demos, Mysticum, Satyricon and Ulver, so I was covered with paint on my first album. Doing your own thing and playing in your own style is not always easy, yet many bands just imitate their heroes and are as such, quite superfluous. If you want to carry on the tradition by using paint, fine with me, but don't do it for reasons of jumping on the band wagon. Black metal is about doing your own thing, and that is precisely what I am doing. I can not feel attracted to some new movements in black metal. Many bands are bad to a ridiculous degree yet have a great image, others play the most cold and hateful black metal without any label bullshit and nobody talks about them. I think there are plenty of classics failing in an average CD-collection so to speak. Yet some developments are really beyond the borders of black metal; Christian black metal for instance: I don't see that as a normal development, it is ridiculous. Or that depri almost gothic wining black metal… All that deals with weakness, does not fit within my vision of black metal.
Apart from the CD there will also be a red/silver vinyl edition through Dutch Apollon Records, we just spoke about it, has this edition been released already and if so, where can people buy it?
It is out and it turned out magnificent. There are a hundred red copies and four hundred in black, all hand numbered. A great quality, even the sound is awesome, just a bit rawer than the CD. Peter Neuber has spent a lot of time on the sound of the vinyl album, and Apollon did a fine job in the artwork of it all. Tony Koehl's artwork, the artist who did the artwork for the album, has turned out excellent as well. Tony worked on it for weeks, with lots of nagging from my part: he makes a lot of covers for brutal death metal. It turned into some typical eighties cover, and the promos for the vinyl are so great that it is hard to believe that they are true. The vinyl album can be ordered through all distros in the Netherlands, Bertus has secured a good distribution.
On your MySpace I see no shows: any idea when and where the fans can see Sammath on a stage?
January 2011.. That is when we will be on the stage somewhere, probably for a tour of two weeks across Europe.
What can people expect when visiting a Sammath gig, apart from of course a relentless devotion?
A show by four maniacs that love to fill the stage which black metal that is fast as hell. I am curious each time again, but furthermore I can say little more than to search on YouTube for Sammath and there are quite a lot of live shows to be found. Especially our show with Endstille at the Kade went extremely well. Our best show ever was with Benediction and Master in Arnhem, I believe somewhere in 2004. Sold out venue, and quite a large pit. Festivals are always somewhat of a mess: wait wait and wait again…
What will be the focus of the band in 2010 and what more can we expect?
These upcoming months a total of, included the Apollon-promos, 900 CD's will be send away, so I will be busy with interviews, promotion etcetera. After that it is back to the rehearsal room with Koos. For the rest there are no big plans: I have a wife and two kids, they have to eat as well. Hopefully we'll be able to practice once every two weeks, and after that we'll see what happens.
Any final words for this interview?
Metal or death!!!