Hegemony - Samael
Genre: Symphonic Black Metal
Review by Steve Jenkins
For fans of iconic 90's black metal act Samael, the last 6 years since the release of Lux Mundi has been a long wait. With their unique take on black metal, shining through on their seminal third album Ceremony of Opposites, the band could easily be mentioned in the same breath as classic acts such as Mayhem, Emperor, and Enslaved. Having built an avid following from their emphasis on their rhythmic section, many were confused when Passage arrived, complete with programmed drums and heavy synth sounds, but fans quickly adjusted. After that, though, it was downhill for the band, as they ditched all black metal influence and adopted a more industrial sound. Whilst the sound wasn't bad, it was definitely a far cry from their best work.
Their latest offering, Hegemony, isn't the return to the sound that made them great, and is more in the vein of their later, more electronic work, it does have a few nods to their black metal roots without fully returning to them. From the opening moments of the title track to the final refrains of 'Storm of Fire', we're met with aggressive guitars and dominant percussion as the band play jump rope between metal and industrialized rhythms. A definite highlight of the album is Vorph's vocals, as he takes us from a spoken-word style to the visceral black/death growls that were so phenomenal on Passage.
Hegemony definitely brings a lot of aggression, especially when compared to their more recent work. They've definitely come back with more energy and focus on making the song have maximum impact, creating multiple layers on each track that ensures with every listen of the album, you find something new about the tracks to like. 'Rite of Renewal' is a good example of this, with it's subtly layered guitars, shifting between simplistic riffs and energetic grooves, creating an interesting texture on the track that will certainly keep the listener interested.
While Hegemony is very comparable to Passage, with their heavy industrialisation, power chords and vicious growls, Hegemony is a more well thought out and well constructed album. It happily embraces the nostalgia of the band's long-time fans with nods to their more classical back catalogue, whilst still moving forward and growing musically. While I do wish Samael would incorporate more of their black metal roots, this is still a good album from the metal legends.
7 out of 10.
Check out the video for "Black Supremacy" below: