There Is No Place For Your God Here
About bloody time. After making us wait five years from their superb last album Godless Arrogance, Dutch destroyers Sammath have returned to the frontlines with their sixth full-length assault: Across The Rhine Is Only Death.
Active since 1994, they’ve now been at it for nine thousand, one hundred and twenty-five trips around the sun – so have they finally softened up a little? Like fuck. Uncompromising as ever, the album immediately drops you right in the shit with the appropriately named Savagery and from then on, it’s all over. Look around, blink for a second as you take your bearings – then fucking run. The theme of the record is WW2 (specifically the final months, when Germany was holding on to the Rhine at the western border – the special edition wooden box set of the album even contains a shell dug up from the site of the battle at Moyland Wood) and that’s exactly where you find yourself, under deafening artillery fire in a haze of blood and smoke. To stand still is death.
Frenzied, bloodthirsty riffs rain down as violent percussive blasts disorient with their ferocity – it’s a thoroughly impressive display, but what I find really remarkable about Across The Rhine Is Only Death is how despite beginning at full throttle, at certain points throughout the album they somehow find another gear to up the intensity even more. Sure, ‘All Lay Dead In The Slit Trenches Of Calcar’ is a massacre (the downpicked riffs in the “no retreat, no surrender” parts sound like the tread of a Panzer IV as it rolls over skulls) while ‘Battletorn’ is alternately frantic and dread-inducing depending on which tempo their guns are set to at the time, but by the time you get to ‘Ferocious Mortar Fire’… christ on a bike. Founding member Jan Kruitwagen‘s vocals are sheer insanity and the track itself is one of the most full-on things you’ll hear this year. More wretched than black metal, reeking of death more than any death metal could, grinding harder than grind and doing war metal more realistically than most war metal does itself. This IS the true horror of battle.
Everything following this is just as harrowing, too. ‘Blood Ridden Fields’ is rabid and crazed like a berserker battle rage, the impressive lead in single ‘Bitter Fighting Amongst The Dead’ sounds no less psychotic when placed amidst everything else, whilst the title track and album closer ‘Across The Rhine Is Only Death’ is utterly mental until it fades out in shocking aftermath. Mr. Kruitwagen handles all songwriting as usual, and he’s absolutely outdone himself – he has achieved total annihilation.
I reckon the closest thing you’ll get to a genuine breather in the entire onslaught is for certain parts of ‘Totenhügel‘. It doesn’t give you much of a break, but it does slow down a little – only to become more devastating in its decreased velocity and really drive home the carnage and sheer terror that surrounds you. These riffs are fucking lethal, dripping in menace and inspiring visions of the type of wartime horrors that’ll haunt you for years and cost you thousands in therapy for PTSD.
None of this is just hyperbole, either. The whole thing is a genuinely uncomfortable but exhilarating listen. The production is more of an all-out blitzkrieg than ever and I’d be remiss to not mention that new man on the battery Wim van der Valk (also of Inquisitor) makes his presence felt with an omnipotent performance, producing the kind of relentless, skin-flaying blasts that beat you into submission, yet providing nuance within the attack. His work beautifully combines with the riffs and longtime bassist Ruud Nillesen‘s punishing pulse to induce fear and panic – the aural equivalent of the fight-or-flight response, kicking in your survival instincts like the men of 1945.
Can you tell I like this shit? Well yeah, I do. A lot. A quarter of a century on and these gents might just have produced the defining album of their career. They aren’t doing anything drastically different, but they don’t have to – they just charge and push forward harder than ever. There’s no atmospheric intros or outros, no soft interludes, no respite or weakness at all; just running for your life, dodging bodies in a hail of bullets and viscera as you hack and slash any enemy that crosses your path, screaming with a voice that you don’t recognize as your own… until without warning, your luck runs out and it’s all over.
Sammath are the boot on your neck, the gun barrel pointed at your face as you cry and piss yourself in the mud. Across The Rhine Is Only Death is the bullet going through your brain as you choke your last breath.
The ultimate war album. Fucking die.
Rating: 5 / 5
Across The Rhine Is Only Death releases October 7th via Hammerheart Records. Pre-orders available now.
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