Saturday, 16 October 2010

Samain - Indomitus (1995) 80/100.

Samain’s history reads like the classic tale of the forgotten legend. Samain, a three piece Australian band, had a very brief spell in the metal industry. Formed in 1993 during the peak of the Scandinavian second wave, Samain, like many others before them, were lost in the hustle and failed to gain any significant momentum during a period where the focus was firmly fixated on the Scandinavian division of black metal. Having extensively explored the early scene outside of the famous Scandinavian boarders, I have come to realise that the extent of excellent material released abroad during that time frame is actually a lot more significant than most people would care to remember. Samain’s debut full-length, entitled ‘Indomitus’, is a prime example of this. Having listened to black metal for many years, I’ve always felt somewhat disappointed in the lack of strength within the Australian scene, particularly in terms of today’s scene where most of its focus is in the South of the country.

‘Indomitus’, the 1995 full-length is, arguably, ahead of its time. The combination of black and folk, with Pagan themes thrown in too, is akin to bands like Kvist and Ulver without showing too much sign of an overly obvious influence. Considering the fact that this album was released around the same time that these two aforementioned bands were creating their best material, it’s hard to say with any confidence that this is a direct result of bands like those aforementioned two, thus making this album a fairly original piece, especially in terms of what was being marketed at the target audience back then. Despite the little flaws that pop up here and there, I still find this album fairly relevant even in today’s modern world where this type of sound has been covered to death. I definitely feel the inclusion of Pagan themes helped drive this album away from clichés and towards a more individualistic stand-point.

‘Indomitus’ is an album which didn’t strike me as special upon first listen. It was the type of thing that took far more consideration and thought to appreciate, though there is nothing particularly challenging or difficult about the album which makes it hard to appreciate and easy to ignore. Samain don’t exactly come with the biggest or best reputation, so I had very few expectations upon my first listen. However, I couldn’t help but feel that certain areas of this album were too unusual for this type of sound. For example, the production and use of mostly clean passages on guitar. The production struck me as very odd considering the majority of albums like this one back in the 1990’s were harsh, primitive and raw sounding. The production is mostly clean and the guitars are very clear-cut, with the riffs being accessible and easily distinguishable amongst the layered structures of the songs. The bass is a direct result of the guitars. By this I mean it strictly follows what the guitars create.

The bass isn’t very creative, nor does it have to be. Considering the fact that it closely abides by the rules of the dominate guitars, which are fairly dynamic and progressive, the bass doesn’t need to contribute to the level of creativity on the album because that would probably reduce the appeal of the guitars which, although formulaic on occasions, are mostly very progressive and accustomed to changing at the drop of a hat. The album, for the first quarter, is far more generic than the middle. In fact, I was very surprised when Samain started to introduced more and more folkish material and top it all off with much cleaner passages of play, as well as the use of cleanly sung vocals, something I consider to be a nice addition to the album, giving it a far more diverse sound than the majority of like-minded albums/bands. Although songs like ‘Stormclouds Gather’ indicate that Samain were never afraid to embrace the black metal roots of the second wave, introducing tremolo picked riffs alongside repetitive bass structures and double bass blasts, the album showcases a number of unexpected traits, such as clean vocals and blissful acoustics.

The folk influence behind the music isn’t very obvious at first. Nor is the progressive side. It isn’t until songs like ‘Fianna’ do we see the truly experimental nature of ‘Indomitus’ finally speak up and take a stand for what it believes in. The progressively tinted bass, which is very jazzy on this song, is one indication that Samain are ready to finally mix things up. Soon enough the clean vocals come into play and they sound fantastic alongside the more experimentally dynamic sections of the music. The vocals tend to be layered either alongside more clean chants, or with more subtle rasps. This song single handily changes the outcome of the album because it’s so very different to what’s come before it. Although I’m normally against the use of unnecessary filler tracks, ‘Lament’, a forty-nine second instrumental, is seemingly in place to signify a change in the tides. This change is a welcomed one with Samain becoming far more likeable once the folk and progressive elements begin to take over and drive the album in a different, more appreciated and thoughtful direction. ‘Tir Na Noc’ continues this exploration into a more noteworthy field. Samain’s ‘Indomitus’ is a classic without the recognition.

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