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Interview With Vorph Of Samael

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Swiss black metal pioneers Samael have been evolving their sound and producing albums successively more advanced than the previous ones for the duration of their twenty year career. While the transformation from old school black metal to more progressive material with liberal use of electronic elements has angered some of their fans, it has gained them many more and garnered international success. Formed by brothers Vorph and Xy, Samael’s latest album “Solar Soul” was released just over a year ago, and the band is currently preparing for a U.S. tour alongside Amorphis and Virgin Black. Vocalist Vorph recently answered several questions for me via e-mail about the band's music and the upcoming tour.

xFiruath: “Reign of Light” saw a pretty big shift in lyrics from the angry anti-Christian sentiment of your older albums to a more upbeat and positive theme. What prompted the change and how has your inspiration for lyrics changed over the years?

Vorph: For the "Reign Of Light" lyrics, I've tried to write something for myself, something I would like to share with other people rather than writing against something. It was a difficult exercise 'cause over the years I've developed certain automatisms and I was more or less lead to look at life from the same angle all the time. I guess I somehow succeed in widening my horizon with this album.

xFiruath: Since Samael’s earliest days you have always had controversial lyrics. On the newest album “Solar Soul” there are several lyrics that appear to be references to conflict in the Middle East and the U.S. invasion of Iraq. What brought you to use these type of lyrics where you haven’t really done that before?

Vorph: The war in the Middle East has been doing the headline for a few years now so it's is difficult to ignore it when writing a new album in that period. Beside the only song explicitly about war is "Valkyries'New Ride" and though it has been inspired by the ongoing war in Iraq it doesn't referred to it exclusively. I guess I had this subject in me for a long time; the events of the last years just bring it out.

xFiruath: How was the experience working on the “Slavocracy” video?

Vorph: It was great fun doing it. That is the first time we're all appearing in a video so we had the chance to experience it together. We talk with the director for a few weeks prior to the shooting and I guess we were on the same page when we’ve finally been on the set. I like the esthetic of it, it doesn't look like anything I've seen before.

xFiruath: Several fans have hypothesized that the song “Angel’s Decay” from the “Passage” album is actually about sodomy. Would you care to shed any light on what that song’s all about?

Vorph: I'll be very interested to know how some people came to that conclusion. I usually don't like to comment much on my lyrics 'cause I like to let the interpretation open to anyone understanding. But to avoid too much confusion, I'll say that "Angel's Decay" is like of short diary of someone's depression eventually leading him to the edge of suicide.

xFiruath: It seemed like there were some issues getting “Era One” and “First Lesson in Magic” released by your old label Century Media. What prompted you to do the “Era One” project and how did Century Media fit into that?

Vorph: Early 2001 when Kaos left the band, we founded ourselves in an uncomfortable place. We would not tour without a second guitar player and we didn't want to record a new S A M A E L album before doing a proper tour for "Eternal". At the same time Century Media were asking us for new material so we took that opportunity to start a new project. We didn't want "Era One" to be release under the S A M A E L catalogue but the final decision on that matter belong to CM. It took some time before they decided to put it on the market but it finally happened in 2005.

xFiruath: Samael will be touring the U.S. with Amorphis, Leave’s Eyes, and Virgin Black later this year. Have you ever played with any of those bands before, and how do you like touring the U.S.?

Vorph: Yeah we love touring the U.S. we have only good memories from our previous American tours and as we didn't came for "Reign Of Light" so we feel like we got something to catch up with. We've shared the stage with Amorphis a few times in the past mainly on the occasion of festivals in Europe but haven't played with the two other bands so far.

xFiruath: How is it having two brothers working together in the same project for the entire life of the band? Do you guys still get along at all?

Vorph: I suppose the main thing is to find a way to collaborate with each other and we luckily found it. Xy compose all the music while I write the lyrics and that leave us a total freedom as to what we want to express. Mas and Makro don't usually participate directly to the composition of the songs but they still have an input to it.

xFiruath: When you guys aren’t making music, what album do you listen to most often and what do you like about it?

Vorph: We all have a wide range of musical interest but here I could only speak for myself. Beside rock and metal which is the music most played in my everyday surrounding, I listen to almost anything. When I'm by own I usually listen to classical music, mostly Russian composers. It keeps my ears fresh and often takes me to other places emotionally speaking.

xFiruath: What originally inspired you to become musicians?

Vorph: It's a difficult one. Somehow I think this is what I wanted to do as far as I can remember. There is countless artists that have inspired me and that keep on inspiring me to this days, but I don't think it would make much sense to try to make a list of the most important as they all played a role in giving shape to the individual I've become.

xFiruath: Do any members of the band have any side projects currently going or is Samael planning on recording any new material in the near future?

Vorph: We have some stuff ready for the next album but we need to put things together before thinking about recording anything. Xy produced a virtual band called ABOVE and we all participated somehow to the project. Also Makro still plays with his former band Sludge.

xFiruath: Do you plan on doing any more electronic re-makes of albums like Xy did with the Passage album?

Vorph: I don't know, Xy often spoke about doing something like this but it seems that he never got the time to work this out.

xFiruath: Samael is the band that first got me into metal, so thanks a million for your time and I hope to catch a live show soon!

Vorph: Thank you and see you on tour...

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur splits his time between writing dark fiction, spreading the word about underground metal bands, and bringing you the latest gaming news. His sci-fi, grimdark fantasy, and horror novels can be found at Amazon.

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