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Samael Frontman Vorph Reflects On "Hegemony"

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Band Photo: Samael (?)

In every sub-genre of metal music, there are bands which became "stars" for lack of a better word and bands which may not have become rich, but are recognised as highly important. Swiss extreme metal veterans Samael would fall into the latter category, with two massively influential albums, "Worship Him" and "Blood Ritual," they helped shape what would become known as the second wave of black metal. Last year, the band released "Hegemony," their first full length release in six years. I had the opportunity to ask frontman and founder Vorph about the album, the bands' longevity and more.

First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to speak to us. Your new album, "Hegemony" has been out for nine months and is already being hailed as another superb album that fits in with even your most revered works. What was the driving force behind the record and now that some time has passed, how do you feel it works as an artistic statement?

Vorph: It took us some time to complete the work on the new album but as every songs went to a growing process, from their first version to the next to the one that ended up on the album we knew that “Hegemony” would be something special, not just a new album but a collection of songs with a strong live potential. Since the album has been release we already have played 5 songs live and they all found their way to the heart of our audience and that's the best feeling in the world, to know that those songs will have a life on their own and will live on not only for the length of the album life but far beyond that.

"Hegmony" was your first album since 2011. Why was there such a long break in between albums?

Vorph: Xy worked on a side project for over a year and that delayed the whole process of finishing the album; the city of Sion where we both come from asked him to compose some original music for a spectacle they're doing every year. He had the chance to work with a full orchestra, something he wanted to do for a long time, and have his music play by classically trained musicians. That music ended up being play for two consecutive years and got released under the name “Sedunum”. After completing his work on that project he reworked every songs we already had, adding ochestration to most of them.

There was some misunderstanding and confusion among some metal fans regarding your song, "Black Supremacy," who took it as a song about race. Was the title chosen to play on such fears and have you received any negative feedback from those who took the name in such a way?

Vorph: A few people from the press mentioned the controversy about that song but I haven't heard the controversy myself. Before the release of the video we explained our intention behind that song and behind its title which was to write an anthem to the color black.

A surprising feature on the album was the cover of The Beatles' classic, "Helter Skelter." Why did you decide to cover this song in particular and what do you believe makes it fit with the rest of the songs on "Hegemony"?

Vorph: We all agree within the band to say that “Helter Skelter” was the first ever heavy metal song and we wanted to pay homage to that song, not only by covering it but by turning it into a S A M A E L's song, so yeah I think it has its place on the album and it pretty much fit with the rest.

Samael has often been hailed as an important part of early black metal, with "Worship Him" and "Blood Ritual" being considered essential for any self-respecting fan of the genre. What spurred you to create such dark music at the time and how do you yourself see Samael in the overall picture of black metal?

Vorph: Venom has been the creators of that music genre and they're been followed by many bands who pushed its boundaries always further, we happen to be one of those bands. On our two first album you can hear our influences as we were completely immersed in the music we were listening at that time. With “Ceremony of Opposites” however we started to sound different from the bands that influenced us and with the addition of keyboards our sound developed into something larger and more massive.

Of course, from "Ceremony of Opposites" onwards, electronic sounds and methods became a large part of your sound. At the time, did you have any concerns about what people would think or was this an unapologetic artistic statement?

Vorph: We were focused on our evolution, on our quest for identity so anything that would separate us from the pack was a good thing. When we started working with a drum computer and released our album “Passage” a lot of people from the industry were against the idea, our label, our management... but that was our decision and we stuck to it and even if there is still people that are bothered today by the fact we're not having a drummer on stage, we've succeed over the years in building an audience and nowadays we've enough people that support our music for making a living out of it.

You and Xytras have been working together in Samael for thirty years now, while 2018 marks the sixteenth year as a band member for Makro. What do you believe is the key to such longevity?

Vorph: We love what we do and we still want the same thing, to make the best album possible and to play live and make those songs alive.

Last year, you launched the W.A.R. project in order perform the first two Samael albums. How long will W.A.R. last and for those of us who haven't seen Samael before, can we still expect to hear material from "Worship Him" and "Blood Ritual"?

Vorph: We've played two show in Switzerland last year with W.A.R. and it was a lot of fun doing it, a lot of old memories coming back to us. We'll play in Wacken this year with S A M A E L and with W.A.R on two different night but I don't know how many more shows we'll do with that project, I guess time will tell...

In just a few weeks, you will be joining 59 other bands and embarking on the 70000 Tons Of Metal cruise, which is where I'll be seeing you for the first time. You played the second edition of the festival in 2012 and again in 2015. How had it changed in that time and do you enjoy most about the cruise?

Vorph: Since the first time we played on that cruise, it considerably grew, the ship is bigger, there is more bands, more stages and more people boarding today than on the earlier editions. It fun to do, it makes a good break in winter time and when we're not playing we can see other bands performing.

Thank you very much for your time. Do you have any parting words for our readers and your fans?

Vorph: Hope they'll find the time to check our album new album “Hegemony” if they hadn't done it yet... We're looking forward to come back to the US and hopefully a full tour will happen sometime this year.

Samael's latest album, "Hegemony" is available now through Napalm Records.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.

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