After just shy of three decades, Dutch force SAMMATH knows well what it is and what it is not and, now seven albums into the fight, it damned well should. Over the past three albums, though, the band has transformed into a three-pronged attack led, as always by J. Kruitwagen. So let us march to Grebbeberg and hope we make it home, because not all will.
Scandinavian black metal bands, especially in the more Northern countries, seem often quite obsessed with the topic and imagery of WWII – and not to lessen any losses from those battles – but the Netherlands were very much deep in the bloody waves, from nearly the start to the finish. So, when Kruitwagen pens a song about the battle that took his great uncle, there’s a bit more than romanticism of “war” as a general term going on. Musically, we’re torn from the first second, Wim van der Valk’s drums not cannons but machine guns, scattering all about.
Surprisingly there’s a scant but noticeable thread of melody in the fiery ‘Reichswald’, but rest assured, bullet-belted battalions, we’re still in grave danger from both Kruitwagen’s treble-heavy strafing and the low end supported and fleshed out by longtime bassist Ruud Nillesen. It’s at about the halfway mark, though, where ‘Reichswald’ becomes a heaving, convulsive riff and rhythm weapon out of nowhere, SAMMATH more than simply racing forward, crafting something that sticks in the memory.
‘Last Gasp Of The Dying’ and ‘Crushed, Shattered And Destroyed’ march in lockstep, both 6+ minutes in length, but showing a trio that has, over time, become able to bend steel to its will, and leaving no room for wandering about aimlessly. This is conflict, and though the winds of the fight may slow from time to time, it’s only a waiting in fear and bloodied rage for the next onslaught.
Living up to its name, ‘Tot De Laatste Granaat’ is shrapnel slicing, sharp and rending. Not surgical, shredding in its carnage, while the close of Grebbeberg, the burning ‘Stahl Un Feuer’ is multi-faceted. Moments of BLASPHEMY and even VULCANO lie in wait, but make no mistake here. SAMMATH is SAMMATH, none else. And Kruitwagen & co. aren’t just here for the battle. They’re in it for the war.
Review By: Lord Randall