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HELLCRAFT - review
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SAMAEL should be known to everyone of you, be it of positive or negative character so I won’t start with any needless introduction here. Mastermind Xy was so kind and answered my questions...

Talking about the bandhistory of SAMAEL would totally blow up the frames of these pages, but it would interest me what kept SAMAEL so unique and original over all these years. Is it the will to create something "above everything" or was it more a natural and non-controllable development?
"I would definitely say that the whole thing was a natural development. The music is basically the reflexion of what we are. Means we can feel a connection between our first album and our personalities at that same period."

What are your impressions when you look back in the old days of SAMAEL? Are there things you would better make undone today, or are you proud of everything you have done so far?
"It‘s pretty much the same thing. I personally do not regret anything from the past. A lot of things could have been done better / faster but as always, the main goal is to do everything as good as possible according to the present possibilities."

So, let's come to your latest release "Eternal". I think with this album SAMAEL went more into the electronical and softer direction, though I have to admit that I like this album a lot, even if some people would hate me for this statement. Well, are you satisfied with the result of "Eternal"? I think that the sound turned into a more weaker, less-heavier direction than on "Passage", do you agree? What is your favourite song on the album?
"As it is usually for most of the band, I feel that "Eternal“ is our best album so far. We‘re still satisfied with the result although a couple of minor things could have been done different. "Eternal“ was really a normal evolution after "Passage“. We might try to change a bit more the direction for the next one."

It seems that the lyrics used on "Eternal" are of very personal nature, dark and also very extravagant. Who is the main lyricwriter in SAMAEL and which influences do you generally use to write? Do the lyrics have even similar importance as the whole music has?
"Vorph (singer) is writing all lyrics. I also feel that they became a bit more personal, more open and larger. For me it‘s definitely a really important part. Music and lyrics are always linked together. We try to make them being a unique piece."

How will SAMAEL develop in the future? Could you even imagine to make a Black Metal orinented album again, in the vein of "Ceremony Of Opposites" or will you follow this more electronical way? By the way, would you describe SAMAEL still as a Metal band in one way or another?
"I don‘t really know how the future will be. In a way, I‘d like to be able to imagine anything, to live with as few barriers as possible although the future will likely have a pretty strong connection with what we‘re doing right now. I would hardly imagine SAMAEL coming back to the more Black Metal orientation you mentioned. I still enjoy aggression in music but also feel that SAMAEL has an own way to follow."

Your first album "Worship Him" has become an absolute classic in todays Black Metal genre, though many people lost their interest in SAMAEL after the "Ceremony Of Oppposites" album (what I cannot understand). Could you imagine why? What do you think of this album today, now after ten years?
"It‘s still cool, considering the time / possibilities offered when it was released. We never felt the loss of interest you mentioned. So far each album did better than the previous one. Sometimes loosing leads you to win."

On your first three albums, the occult and satanic philospohy played a very important role. It changed on your fourth album "Passage" where you gave the whole concept a more astronomical background. What was finally the reason for that? Have you been bored by this satanic image or was it only time for a change? Which importance have topics like satanism and occultism in general for you today? Do you still have something in common with these ideologies?
"The connections with our past, as a band, created a kind of line. Therefore a part of each step of a carrier lives inside, somewhere. There are so many things around that I just can‘t see a reason for focalising too long on the same topics."

What about the works of Aleister Crowley? On the "Ceremony Of Opposites" album, you used some samples of his voice. Did his works had / have a certain influence on you? Do you think he was of great importance in the history of okkultism und magic or more or less only a sex-addicted clown?
"I still believe that anything which is touching you, will have an influence in one way or the other. Regarding those words, this only sentence influenced quite a lot the whole song‘s concept ('Crown')."

Were / are there any books which have really influenced your way of thinking or your way of living your life?
"Yes and no. You can go through a whole book where you‘ll remember just a couple of ideas but this little can have an enormous influence on your whole future."

I remember a sequence from the "666 - At Calling Death" documentary where you stood in front of a playground and talked about your life as a satanist. Have you ever seen this documentary by yourself and do you still stand behind the given statements?
"I also remember about that but I don‘t think we‘ve ever seen it so it‘s hard to tell if we still stand behind those statements. But in a way, we probably do."

The Black Metal scene has chaged a lot during the last years and went into a very commercial direction. Have these facts also been a reason for you to leave this genre behind you? Do you still follow the happenings in the Black Metal movement or don't you connect anything with this style anymore?
"Maybe more the fact that a lot of people where doing that. Anyway, I still feel some of those roots in the actual SAMAEL. I‘m not really following that scene anymore even if I still have some interest in it. I pretty much discover bands when they already have a name, through some compilations."

In your early days you also released coverversions by such immortal bands like HELHAMMER and even VENOM. Do these bands still have a certain influence on your music? What do you think of young bands that start playing coverversions of SAMAEL? Is it an honour for you or don't you give a shit at all?
"Guess it‘s always a kind of honour but I should say that I didn‘t hear that many bands doing it. Don‘t really know about Venom / Hellhammer. Maybe somewhere..."

You shared the stage with countless bands from all over the world. Do you remember a concert or even a tour that really kept traces in your mind? Which concert has been the greatest / worst one you ever played?
"As a tour, I would mention STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, which was likely the best one we did. Greatest / worst shows should be in Poland. Nice, as the reaction was always surprising. For the worst one, we‘ve crossed some technical / organization / timing problems, leading us to play a 10 minutes set."

What about your present live-activities? It is some time ago that you were on the road here in Germany. Did you lose your interest in playing live or are there very different reasons for that? Is there a band that you would really like to tour with if you have got the chance to do so?
"We have a couple of festivals this summer (Germany - France - Belgium - Switzerland). We did start with the US for "Eternal" (September / October). I felt that we almost did too much in Europe for "Passage“ / “Exodus“ so we‘re maybe doing the extreme opposite right now, just to find a balance. Don‘t really know with who we‘d like to tour. A mixtures could be interesting."

A SAMAEL live set would be incomplete without classic songs like 'Into The Pentagram' or 'Baphomet‘s Throne'. Can you imagine how many times you already played songs like these? Playing such songs again and again surely becomes boring after some time, but the audience would be disappointed if it couldn't enjoy the atmosphere of such classics. Do you still have the same feeling as you had in past times when you play songs, for example, from the "Worship Him" era?
"On stage, the feeling often comes from the crowd. As that reaction is always different, it also gives a different approach to the song. We‘ve re-worked those songs, so that brought a fresher feeling for us. We‘re actually not playing 'Into The Pentagram' anymore and 'Baphomet‘s Throne' has also been out for a while. It‘s nice to take back an older song from time to time but we‘re trying to avoid to be sticked strongly with one of those songs."

Being a member in SAMAEL means to invest a lot of time in the band. Please tell me more about your everyday life and how much time to you spend in musical and non musical activities?
"There are some really stress periods as the weeks before a studio session or a tour related to a new release and on the other hand, there‘s also some really quiet periods. It isn‘t that constant. I always try to keep myself busy, by writing new stuff. There is a lot of things ending up in the trash."

Do you still rehearse like most bands do (meeting in the rehearsal-room and play until the sweat drips from the ceiling...) or do you have slightly different ways to rehearse and to create new songstructures. Please tell me more about this...
"The set up we‘re working with allows us to practice a lot with tapes but we still practice together to prepare shows, tours and studio. The way to create is likely similar to other bands. Home studio gives you the possibility to enter studio with a pretty clear image of the final result."

Your early releases, especially the first 7" EP "Medieval Prophecy" and your first LP became rare collectors items and are very hard to get nowadays. Is it important for you that even your newer releases are available on vinyl as well?
"There‘s a kind of magic in the vinyl‘s format, also soundwise. But at the end, the CD is just a lot more practical. I do possess quite a lot of vinyl. From time to time, I just enjoy to spend some hours to go again through some of them but I‘m not really proud of any vinyl."

Of a very fascinating character are also the greetings-lists in your early releases where you hail bands like BLASPHEMY, SARCOFAGO, TORMENTOR, BEHERIT, MERCILESS or SADISTIC NOISE. Don't you think it's a pity that most of these bands have given up and are mostly "buried and forgotten" nowadays, as all these mentioned bands had their very special character, which is very rare today? Can you imagine that there will even be a revival of bands like these?
"We‘ve been in touch with a lot of bands. The charm with older cult bands is that it leaves you free to imagine how they could sound today. But this could be far from realitly. The VENOM reunion didn‘t please me that much. It was nice to see what I missed some years ago but the magic was simply gone."

It seems that you are still working together with Century Media, one of the biggest labels in todays Metal world. How does this cooperation work? Isn't it sometimes quite difficult, as they keep charge of so many different styled Metal and even non-Metal acts?
"There‘s some ups and downs, as usual. I just feel that we have nothing to do with that company anymore. The faith is lost on both sides."

Can you tell me a bit about the sales then? Which of your albums sold most and has been the most successful one, ultimately? What about the sales of "Eternal"? Are you satisfied with it or do such things not interest you that much?
"Eternal“ followed the "Passage“‘s sales, so both of those releases are at the highest level saleswise. I would lie by saying that we‘re satisfied with that situation."

Let's dive back into the past again. Surely you remember the problems you had with the song 'To Our Martyrs'. Please let your thoughts flow and tell the story to all the readers who don't know what happened there. How did the story end ultimately?
"It was just a regular censorship trouble. "Ceremony Of Opposites“ has been forbidden for a while but everything is fine by now."

After the "Blood Ritual" album you never enclosed photos to each of your albums again. What is the reason for that? Do you think that the music should stand on its own or have you been too lazy to make any photosessions?
"Probably that the music should stand on its own, sounds nice. Don‘t really understand why there should be a reason behind everything."

So, please give your statement to the following topics:
Brainpieces: "Puzzle."
Death-lists: "Lists."
Suicide: "A way Out."
Churches: "Architecture."
Yin-Yan: "Life."
Pentagram: "Personality."
Underground zines: "Roots."

This is the end of the interview. I have to thank you for your answers. Please add whatever you like to...
"Well, guess I said enough. Thanks for your and the readers‘ interest."

Phil Jonas

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