Sammath - Godless Arrogance - (8.5/10)
Published on February 24, 2014
It’s always a bit of a dick move to criticize the food prepared by someone that had invited you over for dinner, especially when that someone is your mom, but sometimes you simply have to put such scruples aside and lay down the law. See, when my mom said that we were going to have Spaghetti Bolognese I damn well expected Spaghetti Bolognese, not some bastardized version of said dish. Spaghetti, ground beef, tomatoes, onions and some herbs – that’s all you need. Leave the green peppers, button mushrooms and excessive amounts of lentils out of it, mkay? Sometimes basics are best.
OK, this isn’t Italian Cooking 101 – it’s Black Metal 666 – but just like traditional Spaghetti Bolognese this Dutch act’s music goes down smooth and gets the job done when it matters. Actually, ‘smooth’ is not a word that should ever pop up in a Sammath review but their brand of über belligerent old school black metal definitely warmed the cockles of my heart (before dislodging my jawbone and tearing me a new one). Clearly the result of a band playing with a collective bellyful of hellfire, Godless Arrogance is a blistering slab of Pure Holocaust/Battles in the North worship worked down to a fine science. Also, the last name of the main songwriter, Jan Kruitwagen, literally translates to “gunpowder wagon,” so uhm… science.
To reiterate my earlier point – sometimes you just have to stick to the basics. A veritable whirlwind of icy tremolo picked riffs, a smattering of arpeggiated minor chords and carpet-bombing drums, i.e. the basics, are all that you will find here but it’s all delivered with such a singular focus and militant authority that I could do naught but sit back and let the glorious noise wash over me. They may wear their influences on their sleeve but don’t mistake this for your average Dark Funeral clone. Yes, there is ceaseless rage, the drumming is unbelievably punishing (the blasts in “Shot in Mass” and “Godless” immediately made me think of Jade Simonetto’s inhuman performance on Hate Eternal’s Fury and Flames), and there is not much in the way of vocal experimentation but the riffs are catchy, the chilly atmosphere is tangible throughout and there are actually more than a few tempo changes scattered throughout these eight songs.
Just witness how the opening blasts on the aforementioned “Godless” give way to a rollicking groove, how the scraggy rumble of the bass occasionally seems to substitute for the guitars or how they can stick resolutely to a medium pace for the duration of a song (“Thrive in Arrogance”) without losing one iota of intensity. Come to think of it, the awkward staccato tempos of “This World Must Burn (Hammer of Supremacy)” represent what is the album’s sole weak spot. The overly screechy vocals aren’t the best in the game either, and I can only dare to wonder how awesome this cacophony would have sounded with a more versatile vocalist behind the mic, but these are minor gripes. The war-themed lyrics may come off as a bit blasé to some but in a year when the world is set commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of WWI, the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII and the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall I find myself having a new appreciation for them (even if these particular lyrics arguably revel in only the worst aspects of war and man).
All things considered, this is a massively impressive release by a band five albums into a 20-year career and clearly adept at making the most of an admittedly limited musical style. The Pure Holocaust and Battles in the North vibes are unmistakable, but hey – when has that ever been a bad thing?