Israeli band Salem are around for 25 years, 25 years of extreme metal. Only original member is singer Ze'ev Tananboim, but two other band members are in the band since the late 80's. With Playing God And Other Short Stories the quintet present their 7th studio album.
With Drums Of The Dead Part 1 they kick off, and drummer Nir Nakav leads into the album. Soon the band joins in and they storm off into a thrashy tune with death metal elements, female vocals, complex passages and some Oriental sound references. Part 2 follows and they use the same ingredients, but vary a bit. Fans of extreme metal might think that Salem overdo the female clean vocals, but on the other hand this might get them new fans... Personally I like the contrast between Ze'ev's harsh vocals and female voice.
With The Privileged Dead they show themselves a bit heavier, but with tribal drum elements and due to the growls it's more based in death metal then the opening tracks. Marching drums lead you into Downfall Of Paris Part 1, the 2+ minute long track is a kind of lengthy intro for Part 2. Heavy riffs dominate Part 2, but they also use some spheric guitar sounds.
The Bob Marley cover Exodus is a heavy, groove-driven version and the Israelis take off the reggae vibe totally. Again the female clean vocals stick out, but I think everyone who loves the original will dismiss Salem's version. After The Mark Of The Beast Part 1 there is an interlude called Beast Lullaby, after the short instrumental they head into Part 2 which features At The Gates frontman Tomas Lindberg on vocals. Mean spoken words, brutal growls are combined with fast double bass drums and staccato riffs, but also keyboards are used. Part 3 without Lindberg and it's same, but different. This time the female voice is back. Another interlude is I Hate Pigs!, the closer is called Playing God. First mid-paced they storm off, fast riffs force you ahead, a break and they head into a Oriental influenced passage with female vocals. And they speed up again, the fast parts featuring Ze'ev growls while the slower passages are done by the girl. A sonic roller coaster ride which incl. some folk elements and closes with something which sounds like a religious recitation... The closer is my personal favorite and shows the variety of Salem's sound spectrum.
Salem try to push boundaries, they try new things. Not everything works out, so is Downfall Of Paris Part 1 simply too long, even if it's a good idea. By using more clean female vocals some extreme metal fans might loose interested, the female voice adds a Gothic touch to the complex thrash'n'death stuff. So I can only recommend to check out some songs and make up your mind!