The Swiss Metal band Samael have been bringing a unique blend of Black and Industrial Metal to listeners for 30 years now. Far from resting on their laurels, they recently released their latest album, Hegemony. Frontman and lyricist Vorph Alack sees it as building on their previous offering Lux Mundi to capture the essence of Samael. “I think with Lux Mundi our intention was to find the connections between all the things that we thought were the most important things for Samael somehow,” he reflects, “to have an album that represents us. We’ve had many experiments in the past, and maybe we might have gotten lost here and there, from time to time. We wanted to have something that we thought would focus on the core of our music, and that’s what we did with Lux Mundi. I think this one pretty much builds upon that foundation. That’s the way I see it, at least.”

Vorph considers what aspects have been emphasised the most, pointing out, “Maybe the orchestration, the more symphonic side. It’s maybe due to the fact that actually took a break for a year to do music for the city we come from. They do a spectacle every year, and they asked him to do the music for that,” Vorph speaks proudly. “He composed music and recorded for the first time with a full orchestra, and that was a dream for him. He had a chance to really have arrangement for every instrument. And I think probably after, when he came back to the sound of Samael, he still had this in mind and wanted to have more orchestration here and there. That’s probably one of the points that is stronger on Hegemony than the previous album. But we try to have as much variation as possible, with the tempo, having some faster songs, some slower, and I think maybe our strongest point is with the mid-tempo songs. But we try to have all this, an album you can listen to from beginning to end without getting tired, hopefully,” he adds wryly. “You know, we’re still old school. We’re still thinking albums, not just one song, even though I know people don’t consume their music the same way we did back in the day. But we like to have albums that are interesting and dynamic, and keep on being interesting until the end.”

Samael take their influences from the musical spectrum well beyond Metal, and Vorph offers an exploration. “We’re pretty much open-minded about the music we’re listening to. For me a good song is a good song, it doesn’t matter which type of music. Aside from Metal we are listening to, I wouldn’t say a lot but quite a few electronic bands, some Industrial stuff. Generally, things with distorted guitar I can relate to very easily. So that’s one of the elements that drove me towards the Industrial bands like Godflesh or Ministry back in the 90’s because you knew they came from a different place. I could straight away identify with them because of the distorted guitar. It sounded like something that was not far from my understanding of music. Rock in general, we don’t have limitations. It’s true, for what Samael’s music is about, it’s pretty much based on Metal, and Industrial, and maybe some classical elements in it.”

In consideration of classical music, Vorph puts forward, “You get a lot of resonance with the Heavy Metal listener, at least I know it works for me, the classical stuff. Because we’re looking for something powerful, something that is uplifting, and some of this music has actually got all these things. I recently was in Berlin, three or four days ago, and I went to see the German Requiem from Brahms there, and I thought, ‘This is almost Heavy Metal stuff.’ From time to time this is so powerful, you think, ‘Wow.’ Even with Metal, it’s rare we achieve this kind of intensity, and that’s something that is inspiring. You want to have this in your music, you want to try to incorporate this and give this back to the people. That’s kind of the idea.”

When it comes to creating Samael’s music, the focus in on Xytras. “Xy is actually doing all the music by himself. He’s the sole composer at this moment. That’s since Ceremony of Opposites, so it’s over 20 years we’ve been working that way. I only write the lyrics and find my vocal line on the music that he does. It’s the same formula for this album. The difference is probably that once he got the catch of the songs he’d give it to me so I could work on it with the lyrics, and then when we kind of have something, we play this to the others and we discuss the song together, and some ideas might pop up here and there. Maybe there could be a break here, or this might sound too much. Usually we take those comments into consideration and re-work the song. Then we had Waldemar Sorychta come in again this time, we were working with him for almost every album since Blood Ritual. He knows the band. He’s kind of the external ear from the band, so he can point to the weakness of the songs, usually. Most of the time, not all of the time but most of the time, there are things that are too much. You will do so much, and at some point maybe you’ve got delusions, so you take one part out and all of a sudden the part is there again, and you don’t lose the focus. He’s good at seeing that. Those things we might understand ourselves, but it will take years, and usually the album is out already and then you listen to it a few years after and think, ‘Ah! This should have been different,’” he puts forward animatedly. He’s obviously speaking from experience. “As you can see from before, this is a good way to make every song improve. And that’s the way we’re working for a long time now.”

Having spoken of the essence of the band, Samael is a name filled with occult meaning, and Vorph opened up about that element. “We kind of got the answer by writing a song called ‘Samael.’ Of course I picked this name up from occultism books that I had at the time, but we wanted to speak about what it means to us. This is the spirit of the band somehow. This is the entity we form when the four of us are together, and extended of course when we play live to the audience. If a concert is going really well, at some point there is a connection that happens, and everybody agrees on this. Even if I go to a concert, sometimes this happens. It’s kind of a trance or,” he hesitates, musing. “It’s something. We wanted to talk about that connection, and I think we just wanted to give a name to that connection and that name is Samael, and that’s why we wrote that song named that way.”

As for whether occultism is still an influence on the band, Vorph continues his deep reflection. “ That was what started up the band somehow. This had moved maybe towards an interest of, what is heathen in general? There are always two ways to read the word. The one that everybody agrees on, what is taught in school, what is said in the media, what is on the front line. And then there is something that underlies that, that is on the side, that is behind it. I’ve always been interested in what was behind the things. That hasn’t changed. Of course the occult one was because we come from a very religious place, and that has been something very present in our lives early on, so we wanted to fight against that. We wanted to go over it. And it took me some time to understand that you don’t fight against those things, you just move forward, because you get stuck in it if you fight against it. You just give more power to it. That was my experience. Is the occult still something important? I think my intention to look behind the things, that’s what motivated me to go towards the occult, and that’s what motivates me today to look at the world in general. So that hasn’t changed, really.”

Vorph remains philosophical with regard to Hegemony. “I hope you have some time to check out our new album. Hopefully you’ll like it! That’s all I can say. We’ve done what we could, and now it’s up to the people to see if they find something in it or not.”