Salem - Playing God And Other Short Stories

Salem have been around since the 80s, so almost twenty five years later one would expect to see some monumental progression. By 2010 it seems the band has left their gothic doom roots and stepped for a middle eastern thrash tinged death metal. Playing God And Other Short Stories is very exciting. There's so much on this album to make the listener's head spin and go "Wow..." There's the hard thrashing tracks, the slower doomier ones, some electronic influences, and even a music box melody that is the biggest curveball of all.

The "Drums Of The Dead Set" are both very similar, but begin to open up the earhole to what Salem is offering on this album. The music is gritty and also catchy, thanks to the thrash influences. Vocals are a mid paced black metal snarl that are slightly annoying, but a set of clean female vocals offset this and offer some more dynamics to the music. The drums are like jackhammers, but often get lost in the distortion of the mix. Part II is a bit doomier than Part I and offers a lot more middle eastern melodies, displaying a culturally rich track instead of the standard death-thrash chugging. "The Privelaged Dead" is a heavy thrash tune, but the drums are fantastic in the way they rhythmically beat out each note. "Exodus" features more of the female vocals over the chugging guitars; there's even what seems to be a bit of jazz with the bass near the end. "The Downfall Of Paris" set makes things interesting again because Part I is just the drums drilling out this slow, militant march before leading into Part II which cranks things back into the death-thrash formula. Eventually it hollows out back to the drum formula heard on the first track, only it feels like there is some electronic scratching going on as well.

"The Mark Of The Beast" set is different from the others because it has an interlude. While most of the parts are the standard thrash chug with the harsh vocals snarling away and the more angelic ones popping in every once in a while- and they really give their best on this set-, it is the interlude, "Lullaby," that is the focus of interest for the album. It isn't metal. It isn't even relevant to anything Salem have done so far. Basically it is this very soft chime, like that of a music box, that one will probably have to turn their speakers up to listen to, which is a perfect set up into Part II which completely blasts back into the hard guitars and drumming. On Part II there is some really harsh distortion to create this extreme lo-fi atmosphere to make things sound really raw, as does Part III. "I Hate Pigs!" is a very short sample that is pretty much useless and not effective as it just involves the sounds of gunfire and pigs dying. If it had been the first track, it would have been much more successful, but at this point it's just a break in the album, nothing more.  "Playing God" thankfully makes up for it with some great doom laden riffs and plenty of female vocal work. Altogether there's an excellent blend of thrash along with the doom, closing with a religious ceremonial chanting. Now THAT'S effective sampling, unlike from the track before.

Salem may feel simple, but when one looks at the lyrics and dynamics of each concept 'set,' it is very impressive. Playing God And Other Short Stories is a great album- save for that one misreable sampler- that takes a metal view on the Jewish religion and the recent Islamic terror acts; basically, its history, and told well from the lyrical point of view. As for the music, it is an excellent mix of brutality and beauty (mostly due to the female vocals) and thankfully works well without feeling out of place. Fans of dual gender vocal assaults such as The Project Hate MCM and groove thrash bands such as Prong will enjoy this a lot.

  1. Drums Of The Dead Part I
  2. Drums Of The Dead Part II
  3. The Privilaged Dead
  4. Exodus
  5. The Downfall Of Paris Part I
  6. The Downfall Of Paris Part II
  7. The Mark Of The Beast Part I
  8. Beast Lullaby
  9. The Mark Of The Beast Part II
  10. The Mark Of The Beast Part III
  11. I Hate Pigs!
  12. Playing God

Pulverised Records
Reviewer: Colin McNamara
Jun 20, 2010

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