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Interview

Samael Frontman Vorph Discusses "Hegemony," "Lux Mundi," Black Metal And More

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Band Photo: Samael (?)

We often associate black metal with Norway. Perhaps rightly so, as the infamous scene in Scandinavia gave the world such names as Mayhem, Darkthrone, Burzum and Emperor, to name a few. All of those bands however, would be the first to tell you that black metal came to be through the influence of several groups such as Venom, Celtic Frost, Bathory and of course, Samael. Samael took the burgeoning genre into more extreme territory than it had before and after two landmark albums, "Worship Him" and "Blood Ritual," began incorporating new elements into their sound, introducing the world to industrial black metal.

At their recent show in London, I had the pleasure of meeting up with the band's founder and frontman Vorph to discuss the legacy of the band, their place in black metal, the latest album, "Hegemony" and the re-issue of the previous album, "Lux Mundi." You can watch it in full below.

Diamond Oz: You're still promoting the latest album, "Hegemony," having just released a new video for the title track. It's a very interesting video. Very vibrant, which is strange to say about such a dark band.

Vorph: A friend of ours did the video, who also did the "Black Supremacy" video before. It's nothing special really, we just wanted to have some visuals to go along with the music.

Oz: Obviously "Hegemony" has been out for a little while now, having come out in 2017. Now that there's been time for it to settle, how do you see "Hegemony" in the grand scheme of things?

Vorph: We're still happy with it. Usually with time you get better at not disappointing yourself. I think we've played almost half of the album live already, some we're probably never going to play. The ones we've chosen to play so far work fine, but hopefully we have one or two more still to play.

Oz: I was going to ask you about that because I've read that the album was written with the live atmosphere very much in mind.

Vorph: Some of the songs yeah. I mean the song, "Samael," obviously because it's kind of an anthem for the band.

Oz: And of course, "Black Supremacy," like you've said, that's your anthem for the colour black itself. Have you played "Helter Skelter" yet?

Vorph: No. Maybe we will do at some point but we're promoting this album, we've just had a double re-release of "Solar Soul" and "Lux Mundi," so we're trying to have a mish mash of the new album and older stuff. It's difficult, we play an hour and a half, which is already something extreme for this music, so it could be a little too much to have that one in there as well, but it would be nice to try it at some point.

Oz: Absolutely, I think it would go down really well. Well like you said, you've just re-released two albums including "Lux Mundi." There was a substantial gap between "Lux Mundi" and "Hegemony," so that almost must seem like an old album now.

Vorph: Kind of, yeah. One of the reasons we did that was because we changed the record company and we own the right to all of our albums since "Reign Of Light," so all of that material will be moved over to the new label at some point. Xy was not totally satisfied with the snare sound on that album so it was a good chance to correct it. But as you correct one thing, you have the chance to correct every thing, so it is a re-mix, but you can't go too deep into the details. I mean you've got the guitar tracks but they are not separate anymore and I think it adds a lot of dynamic to it. I'm very happy with the result.

Oz: Good. So with those two re-releases and "Hegemony" is tonight's set going to be focused mainly on more recent material.

Vorph: Sort of. We try to go down the line a bit further back. We go as far as "Ceremony Of Opposites." We don't play songs from the first two albums anymore as we did the project...

Oz: I was going to say about the W.A.R. project.

Vorph: Yeah exactly, where we only played that material, so we cannot split those two albums out of the discography but out of the live set somehow. We have two different projects out of the same band.

Oz: Are you still doing the W.A.R. project?

Vorph: We're doing some shows. We just have on this Summer in Germany, sometime in July. It's not something we try to promote but if there is a demand then yeah, we're there and we've got the material.

Oz: I think it's a bit of fun really. This way the fans don't miss out on hearing this material again.

Vorph: It was more fun to do it than I thought it would be. First we tried a few years ago at the rehearsal place. We didn't really have any plans to play it live, it was just to see how hard it was with the drums and stuff like this. So we thought maybe we'll just do one show sometime and then we had a lineup change before finally getting a proposition from a guy who runs a small festival in Switzerland and we thought, "This has to be." So we played two shows in two nights, one album after the other in a small club and it turned out good. We had more offers from promoters so I think we've done it about six times now so it won't be something regular but you know.

Oz: Well like you say, you kind of go back to "Ceremony Of Opposites" as the starting point of Samael...

Vorph: Somehow, yes. This is when we started to work better with Xy doing the music and I started to focus on the lyrics, so we haven't changed that formula but those two previous albums are a bit different.

Oz: Yeah and "Ceremony Of Opposites" is a fantastic album, it's a very important album for Samael as well. I think it's an album that people who like avant garde or extreme music should have in their collection because it's such a departure from the norm. This year marks the twenty fifth anniversary of that album, so are there any plans to celebrate this?

Vorph: We did it already. A few years ago we played the album entirely over forty times I think at festivals and small tours in Canada and Poland so no, we're not going to do that again. Enough is enough.

Oz: As I mentioned earlier, there was a six year gap in between "Lux Mundi" and "Hegemony," can you see another substantial gap happening between the next album or have you already begun working on it?

Vorph: We're not really thinking in those terms. We haven't started to work on new material. We have ideas, any time something pops up in my mind I just write it down and out it aside for a time when I'll need it but there's no plans to record anything new at this point. I mean this album is two years old but this is the first tour we're doing for it.

Oz: That's pretty strange really. I saw both of your sets at last years 70000 Tons Of Metal...

Vorph: Yeah but that was like a festival and we've done those kind of things, but we haven't done a tour for this album.

Oz: Obviously Samael has been credited as a very important band in terms of the development and legacy of black metal. I was wondering, do you still see yourselves as a black metal band or did you ever see yourselves as a black metal band?

Vorph: We were black metal fans more than a band but I'm a big fan of Venom and also Bathory, Celtic Frost, Possessed... There wasn't many bands doing that kind of thing before, then it kind of died away a little bit. Those bands either changed or they broke up and that's where we felt that we should carry on because this is something that we really felt inside ourselves and with the years we've tried to develop it and get our own identity otherwise you're not a cover band but you're something like it.

Oz: I think it was "Worship Him" that Fenriz (Darkthrone drummer) described as "the first Norwegian black metal album..."

Vorph: We were not exactly satisfied with the sound of the album, we wanted to have something fatter and heavier. We actually reached what we were looking for when we released "Blood Ritual" but yeah that album sounds different.

Oz: And when you released those albums you were still very young, I believe you were only twenty one when "Worship Him" was released and twenty five when "Ceremony Of Opposites" came out. To have three albums that are considered such gems, such essentials at such a young age, do you kind of look back with surprise?

Vorph: I don't really look back like that. The only times we look back is when we play old songs. For example when we did the W.A.R. project I had to listen to those albums again and I hadn't listened to them for years, but you hear all the things that could have been better and could have been different but we've got the chance when we play live to readjust a little bit. We've got two guitarists now so there's more harmony, there's more interesting things going on than on the original album but... Those were the days.

Oz: So just finally what's the plan for the rest of 2019?

Vorph: Finish this tour then we're going to do some festivals, plus we're already working on the next tour. Nothing is confirmed but it's already in the air right now.

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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