Interview by Christina Thompson
Since their formation in 1987, Samael is not only dropping their 11the studio album (through Napalm Records), but also celebrating their 30th anniversary. A remarkable feat in its own right, to be sure, but the new album is gaining lots of positive buzz as a helluva way to mark their 3 decades as a band. MFH got a chance to dive in and ask about the new album as well as what it takes to be a band committed to their music for over a quarter of a century…
Samael dropped their 11th album fittingly titled Hegemony (which means a preponderance of leadership or authority; dominance), this past Friday 13th. There is an interesting story about the orchestral work involved and why it took a little longer to get this album accomplished and released. Can you please share with us what was involved in the lengthy process?
We did start to work on new material soon after the „Lux Mundi“ tour, by mid 2012 we already a substantial amond of music ready to be recorded but while the work on the album progressed, Xy got an offer to creat a piece of music for a show the city of Sion is doing every year. Xy took on the challenge and wrote thirty plus minutes of music that he got the chance to record with a full orchestra. The whole project took him over a year to be completed and of course when we came back to the album everything had to be changed in order to match his new expectations. That exprerience benefit a lot to the songs on „Hegemony“ and it is probably the reason why this new album has so much orchestration on it.
How did you come up with the theme, ideas, for the Hegemony album?
It was a step by step sort of progression. We didn’t have a clear idea about how the album will be once it would be finished. We worked on individual songs and that’s how we built that record, without preconception of what it would become. We first thought about a self title record but with a song called S A M A E L on it, we were afraid that it would put to much focus on that song and overshadow the rest of the album. We somehow knew „Hegemony“ would be the opening track and felt it would be a good choice for an album title. The themes developed throughout that record are diverse but the idea of connection flots over a few songs „Hegemony“, „Red Planet“, „Samael“… there’s is a couple of tracks that deal with fresh start, new beggining, songs like „Rite of Renewal“ or „Land of the Living“; while „Against all Enemies“ is probably the most introspective tune on this records.
A lot of people will say that you started in the black metal realm and then strayed away from it, the furthest distance from it being your tenth album Lux Mundi. But in reality, the black metal scene has undergone its own evolution since your early days. Why do you feel that knowing this, some people just can’t accept Samael’s own evolution in their own sound?
I’m not sure I’ll say „Lux Mundi“ is the album that is standing the furthest from our original sound. If there’s such an album it would probably be „Eternal“ or „Reign of Light“. With „Eternal“ we explode the core of what we were and explore different direction while „Reign of Light“ tried to make sens of it all. In my opignon „Lux Mundi“ is actually the album were we recreate a solid ground upon which we’ve built „Hegemony“. We might have confuse people at some point by giving them mixed signal about the band direction but it was nessessary for us to expand our sound in order to stay revelant.
Along that thread, it seems that Hegemony is actually making many attempts at circling back and connecting to earlier Samael days. Was this in any way a forethought while making the album as you approached celebrating 30 years of creating music and the growth you were not afraid to share with your fans? Or did it just happen organically?
As I said, we’re tried to connect the dots with „Lux Mundi“ and with this new album we wanted to follow in that direction. So yes, „Hegemony“ somehow consolidat the bridges we built between the different side our our music and hopefully comes out as a coerent effort to give a good representation of what we’re all about at this point in time.
You have achieved near-legendary status and are staunchly unapologetic about your choice to do your music your way. How do you feel you can even possibly top yourselves going forward after releasing such a quintessential Samael album such as Hegemony?
We have no idea at the moment, we haven’t start working on new material at this point and don’t intend to do so in a near future. As you mentioned earlier it took us a long time to complet the work on „Hegemony“ so we’ll use the time we have now promoting and defending that album live. When we’ll feel we gave it justice we’ll move forward.
To what do you attribute to your longevity? What moves you/inspires you to keep being so creative? Obviously, whatever it is, it certainly seems to be working….
Without music life would be pretty dull. As much as I love listening music nothing acctually tops the kick of playing with this band. We had a few line-up changes along the way but it was always for the better. The alternance beween creation and performance never get boring and I can’t realy imagine myself doing anything else with the same passion and enthusiasm. So, the loop of making a new album and sharing live with an audience until we feel like manking a new album has made the last thirty years like a short distance and as long as we’re in good health there is no reason to stop.
Would you mind sharing one of your favorite Samael memories/experiences? One that really just made you think: DAMN! This is what it is all about? This is why we do this?
Every time we hit the stage we could say that but of course there has been some concert more memorable than others. Our first, and only, participation at Dynamo Open Air fest in ’97 which was The festival every metal bands dreamed to play at that time, Wacken on the same year, Rock al Parque in Bogota in 2010 and most of the concerts we ever did in Poland.
Can you tell our MHFers how you plan to promote Hegemony? What is on the horizon tour-wise, etc?
We’ll mainly play festivals this year, starting the 70’000 tons of metal cruise next week, then it will be Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland and Wacken again. We might tour Europe this fall and we’re discussing to come back to the US in 2019.
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. If you have anything else you would like to add, please feel free to do so now. And we look forward to another 30 years with Samael!
Thank you for the support and thanks to everyone reading this… check our new album „Hegemony“ this is probably the best thing we’d done so fare!
MHF Magazine/Christina Thompson