Sammale – Sammale Review

It feels strangely appropriate, given my theory that 2022 comprised 15 months, that here I am in January 2023 still reviewing albums released in 2022. Now part of this, admittedly, is down to my own tardiness, driven by a combination of illness, burnout, and the pressures of readying two Shark pups for Christmas. But here we are and, if I ever want to move forward to reviewing 2023 albums, we should get down to business. Sammale—not to be confused with Sammal, which I also reviewed—is the brainchild of Zannibal, the guy behind Paisaunt and the guitarist, and primary songwriter, for Marrasmieli. The latter achieved what must be a comparatively rare feat, of securing 4.0s for both their debut and sophomore efforts, and deservedly so. That alone was enough to make me sit up and take note of Sammale when it arrived in my review queue (but apparently not enough to get it reviewed on time).

A much rawer, more stripped-back version of the black metal drug that Marrasmieli is pushing, Sammale operates in shades of bleak black, dappled with folk elements. Synths are used very sparingly, much more so than in Zannibal’s day job, with most of the atmosphere here being guitar generated and driven. In many respects closer to Paisaunt’s jagged assault, Sammale has a rough feel to it that is much more organic and free-flowing than Marrasmieli. Indeed, Zannibal has said that he feels he overthought some of the songs on Martaiden Mailta and he deliberately took a step back when it came to writing Sammale, even down to improvising some parts during studio recording sessions. The result is an unpredictable and intriguing album that lurches between restrained folk (opening of “Jo Hanki Haihtuu”), sometimes set to the sounds of nature (“Sammal”) and furious, visceral black metal (“Kalmanväki”).

Direct and unvarnished in the harsh parts, whimsical and light in sparing moments, Sammale feels like taking a stroll through some gloomy woods at dusk, which rapidly accelerates into a headlong dash, bouncing off half-seen tree trunks, as you realize the woods are full of monsters. The album achieves the unlikely combination of feeling simultaneously like a fully realized journey but also slightly unfinished. The combination of harsh, unrefined black metal with wisps of broken, half-heard melody (“Mehtän Kultainen Kuningas”) and brooding, doom-laden atmospherics (“Köyry”) grew on me with each listen. Everything here is handled by Zannibal, allowing him to imbue Sammale with a gritty edge that is not found in Marrasmieli’s work but, in doing so, he does not abandon all sense of nuance or melody. On the contrary, these flow through the album like tiny brooks and streams that snake across the forest floor.

Muddy guitars and a raw, almost second-wave, drum sound contribute to this earthy picture. Nevertheless, the album has a surprisingly high DR score (possibly artificially inflated slightly by my review version being only 192 kbps) and an accordingly rich and textured sound. Zannibal’s vocals straddle that point between a blackened rasp and demonic roar more associated with funeral doom, giving “Köyry” and the beast of a closer, “Kalmanväki” a real sense of depth, despite the (deliberately) low production values. In some ways, I hear elements of Mystras’ sound in Sammale, particularly on that closing track, albeit without the grand historic narrative that Mystras majors in.

I may be sitting here in 2023, laboring on 2022, but this is definitely a pleasing way to close out one hell of a long year. Tightly written and clocking in only just over the half-hour mark, there is much to enjoy about Sammale’s debut effort. Raw, knotty and rough around the edges, but laced with nuance and moments of surprising delicacy, Sammale is a petite little diamond in the rough. Lacking in true standout moments, it is nevertheless an album well worth your time, which will be repaid in full.1

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Naturmacht Productions
Releases Worldwide: December 30th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Though why anyone who wants their music actually heard would choose to release it on 30 December, I have no idea. Perhaps the lateness of this review could even help.
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