Salem drummer Nir told Noiscreep that his Israeli band's thrashy new album, 'Playing God and Other Short Stories,' is a "collection of stories ... that are not necessarily related to each other. The only quality they have in common is that they were put through the same processor, the Salem digestive system and, therefore, carry the same sound signature."

Ah, the Salem digestive system! That means the tunes come out as sometimes thrashy, sometimes doomy, yet always corrosive metal. Nir described the music as having a "good tension and release balance, since we aren't going for the extreme at all times." His perspective is that a song needs to be constructed like a movie, "with blast sections being countered by slower sections. Extremity for the sake of extremity gets boring. You need to give your listeners a chance to breathe every now and then. It's like being an expert interrogator, and violence is not always the answer."

Nir walked us through a handful of songs, which you can use as your guide when enjoying the tracks. "'Drums of the Dead' is Salem's soundtrack to a Dark Horse comic book of the same name," he said of the percussive track. "In the story, Abe Sapien goes on his first solo mission without Hellboy to look into reported paranormal activities that are taking place on a shipping route. We don't want to ruin the story, so go get 'BPRD Vol. 1,' put the CD on and have a blast."

Nir also revealed that the roaring, staccato 'Exodus' is like their version of the Bob Marley classic. "The Rastafaris use the biblical story of the ancient Hebrews struggle in Egypt to be released from slavery as a symbol for their own fight," he said. "One theory claims that King Solomon gave the Ark of the Covenant to the son of the Queen of Sheba, who was of African descent and one of his many wives. Another says that the Ark of the Covenant is buried somewhere amidst the mountain of Judea, and that the queen's son took a replica. The Ark is still buried or in exile. We thought it was time for us to reclaim our heritage. So here we are again, on the journey out of Egypt, Salem style."

'Downfall of Paris' is "a pretty bloody one," according to Nir. It also features female vocals. "It dates back to the French Revolution, but will be forever identified with the American Civil War. This tune's history is so rich, we could have had an entire article written about that alone. Let's just conclude our commentary about this song with Elson's [National Music of America, 1899] report: 'It was sung to many a scene of massacre and bloodshed; it was warbled and trilled out when the mob carried the head of the beautiful Princess de Lamballe, on a pike, through the streets of Paris, and thrust it up for the unhappy queen to look at.'"

'Mark of the Beast' is another interesting story, as well. Nir said, "A relatively new technology offers small computer chips to be implanted under the skin. These radio frequency identification chips will change our lives. They will transmit location at all times and they will replace the use of money, since the chip can be link directly to your bank account and it is sufficient for a business to simply scan the chip to get paid for items you purchase."

Nir went on to quote famous scripture from the Book of Revelation, saying, "And that no man might buy or sell but he that hath the character or the name of the beast or the number of his name." He said, "This quote, although capable of describing a future turn of events, was written some two millenniums ago."

Nir continued, "Many people see this [Radio Frequency Identification] chip as the Biblical mark of the beast. True believers are ordered to refuse carrying its mark. It is foretold that they will die for their refusal but will be revived once the war is over, the Beast defeated and technology destroyed. True or false? It's a fascinating story. You have been warned."

'Playing God' is a song that also has roots in religion. "With our genetic genome deciphered, humanity enters a new era of being able to intervene in the role of the Creator, hence the title," Nir said. "All lyrics in Hebrew are taken from the Day of Atonement's holiest prayer, Kol Nidrei, which is basically a ritual that is meant to release us from vows made between us and God that past year. There is also a morbid version of the prayer for the deceased, the Kaddish, at the very end of the song, along with a list of sins we admit committing against God in alphabetical order."

Salem certainly bring new meaning to thinking man's metal.

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