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Playing God And Other Stories
October 2010
Released: 2010, Pulverised Records
Rating: 3.0/5
Reviewer: JP

It’s a shame there isn’t more press and hype about these guys. They have an interesting back-story, some history, credibility and integrity. If you are not familiar the short version is that they have been around for about a quarter of a century, they are Israel’s first extreme band and they generally have political lyrics. However, all those components are irrelevant when talking about the music.

PLAYING GOD is not bad. Not great but not bad. There are some very interesting musical moments scattered about the album, but they are too few and far between. The band have minimized some of the regional and cultural influences on the songs and I fear the album might suffer for that. The Death Metal inside is fast, heavy but not especially brutal.

PLAYING GOD sounds great. The drums are way up in the mix, very loud and very prominent, which I don’t mind at all, but some might find it disconcerting. The drumming is quite interesting, many styles and accents and the drums really come to the fore on this album, from the pummeling songs to the military styles on songs like ‘The Downfall Of Paris Part I’. I really like the drumming on this album. Drummer Nir Nakav is under-rated. Drumming aside, the production has a modern death feel to it, the guitars grind along but not too harsh. It’s clear, loud and punchy, quite well done.

Salem employ a dual vocal style with Ze’ev Tananboim, the only original remaining member, is still at the microphone and his female counter-part brings a sweet soprano style into the mix. The singers voice is quite pretty, even haunting but sometimes it doesn’t work that well in the context of the song. The song will be raging along in a good death metal clip, and then these ethereal haunting female vocals cut in. Don’t get me wrong, her voice is great, it is reminiscent of Floor Jansen’s work on the Star One project, but strangely she remains largely uncredited. It could be a political thing.

Apparently the band have moved away from politics on this record and have a theme of super-heroes running through this album, but frankly, I’m not hearing it. I mean, it’s not like they suddenly singing songs about Spiderman Vs. Wolverine or something. However, since I’m not a fan of politics in metal nor am I a student of Jewish history, these changes to a more accessible lyrical stance works for me. However, songs like ‘I Hate Pigs’ are just very bizarre to me. I don’t know if it is a joke but the ‘song’ that’s lasts about 1 minute and is sound-effects of some guy screaming’ I Hate Pigs!’ accompanied by gunfire, is just too bizarre. I suppose the person is shooting pigs (presumably the animal and not police officers) or something, but I just don’t get it. Another somewhat odd note is a Bob Marley cover of the song 'Exodus'. Why? I've never heard the original so I can't compare how they have changed it.

Salem are unconventional, iconoclastic and innovative. All combined that paints an attractive picture, middle-eastern chants, blast-beats, female vocals, shooting pigs weird reggae covers, and crushing death metal…it’s odd. It pushes boundaries and that is a good thing. I can’t help but feel if I lived in Israel (and was Jewish) I’d understand this a lot more. It’s not a universal album, but if you are open-minded you could really enjoy it.
Track Listing

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


Ze'ev Tananboim - Vocals
Nir Gutraiman - Guitars
Lior Mizrahi - Guitars
Michael Goldstein - Bass
Nir Nakav - Drums

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