Samael

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Medieval Prophecy EP

Samael - Medieval Prophecy EP ©1988 Necrosound
1. Into The Pentagram
2. The Dark (Extensive Version)
3. The Third Of The Storms

Medieval Prophecy is a three song seven-inch EP from Switzerland's Samael, which featured only Vorph and Xy in the lineup at the time. This release is essentially demo-quality, very muddy and impossibly rare to find (if you so happen to desire a physical copy). It also finds the band in its most primordial moment of development, making their first two commercial releases sound like Top 40 pop in comparison. In fact, Samael covers Hellhammer's "A Third of Storms" and nearly makes that legendary and "rough around the edges" outfit sound polished. Perhaps the only thing that one can find on this EP that has been retained through at least the first half of Samael's existence is the creeping crawling atmospherics. On a whole, Medieval Prophecy is a pretty ugly recording which may as well serve as a demo snapshot of the group's early development. It's safe to say that everything that Samael released later is of higher quality.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 01/2008

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Ceremony Of Opposites

Samael - Ceremony Of Opposites ©1994 Century Media
1. Black Trip
2. Celebration Of The Fourth
3. Son Of Earth
4. 'Till We Meet Again
5. Mask Of The Red Death
6. Baphomet's Throne
7. Flagellation
8. Crown
9. To Our Martyrs
10. Ceremony Of Opposites

Though widely regarded as the pinnacle of the Samael history, Ceremony of Opposites is to me simply a warming up for what the band has accomplished since then. The album is filled with hints, promise and hope, but for my personal tastes, it fails to completely work all the way through as a great album. Good, yes. But not great. The one thing Samael achieves here without question is a very creepy, dark mood throughout the entire album. But for the most part, the songs rumble along without ever quite reaching the next level. The band slowly works more electronic and synth pieces into the music, which does help encourage the mood, but a lot of the guitar style is similar to Blood Ritual. Unfortunately, it just rumbles and grumbles. Many of the tracks simply wander through the arrangements without quite erupting with either fury or aggression. To me, that is the main reason why I rank this album a bit lower than what they have released since 1994. But for dark metal fans, this is still a very good album that only pales due to the amazing standard the band themselves have set.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 12/1999

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1987-1992

Samael - 1987-1992 ©1994 Century Media
CD one:
1. Epilogue
2. Beyond The Nothingness
3. Poison Infiltration
4. After The Sepulture
5. Macabre Operetta
6. Blood Ritual
7. Since The Creation
8. With The Gleam
9. Total Consecration
10. Bestial Devotion
11. ...Until The Chaos
CD two:
12. Sleep Of Death
13. Worship Him
14. Knowledge Of The Ancient Kingdom
15. Morbid Metal
16. Rite Of Cthulhu
17. The Black Face
18. Into The Pentagram
19. Messenger Of The Light
20. Last Benediction
21. The Dark

1987-1992 is nothing more than the pairing of the first two Samael albums, Worship Him and Blood Ritual, in order to make them more readily available for the fans clamouring to find them. Samael has been a band that has grown by leaps and bounds throughout their development (especially as evidenced on their most recent releases). On these two recordings, the band is much more entrenched in an older, thrash metal style that nods its head to a number of influential acts, including hints of Celtic Frost and maybe even Sodom peripherally.

Blood Ritual, mysteriously labelled as disc one though it was released later, has never been an album I've been wild about. The band focuses on low, rumbling riffs and of course vocals spawned from demonic influence. Speed is seldom used to get things going, except maybe on a handful of moments such as the title track. "Since the Creation" hints at the future, with a very doomy piano entry. The sound is crystal clear on the record, benefitting greatly from good production.

Worship Him is definitely a first step in what would be many years of development for the band. Emphasis is placed on supremely heavy riffing, though the guitar tone isn't quite there. Vocally, Vorph sounds like he's trying to spit out bits of popcorn stuck in his throat. Though this album just isn't very striking upon listening today, it is interesting to note that in 1990 there weren't too many bands focusing on this sort of ultra-Satanic imagery or taking the cue from Bathory/Celtic Frost tinged metal and running with it. Dated, yes. Historical, yes. Interesting? Well, only mildly. This 2-CD collection is best reserved for those who must own all the influential recordings from around the beginning of the 90s, but it is not what I would consider the best thing this band has ever done.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/1999


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Rebellion EP

Samael - Rebellion EP ©1995 Century Media
1. Rebellion (new Version)
2. After The Sepulture
3. I Love The Dead
4. Static Journey
5. Into The Pentagram (new Version)

Inventive and unusual EP that showcases Samael's cold, clinical metal hyrid that also acts as a precursor to Passage. Featuring Xytras' keyboards more prominently in the mix, the slight industrial feel only enhances the band's output. There's even a bit of rock n roll swagger in the first seconds of "After the Sepulture" and their choice of Alice Cooper's "I Love the Dead" is a cool pick for a cover. The other significant development in Samael's growth is "Static Growth", which focuses more on Xy's keyboard arrangement and is more in the vein of a metallized Skinny Puppy. The only track that falls flat is "Into the Pentagram", which lacks some intensity. The hidden track at the end of the disc is a reprise of "Static Journey" preceded by an exceptional instrumental piece that suggest Xy (who is the music writer in the band) could easily pen soundtracks for the movies. What an excellent transitional EP.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1998

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Passage

Samael - Passage ©1996 Century Media
CD one:
1. Rain
2. Shining Kingdom
3. Angel's Decay
4. My Saviour
5. Jupiterian Vibe
6. The Ones Who Came Before
7. Liquid Skin Dimension
8. Moonskin
9. Born Under Saturn
10. Chosen Race
11. A Man In Your Head
CD two:
12. Regen
13. Glanzednes Königreich
14. Des Engels Untergang
15. Jupiterianische Schwingungen
16. Die Vorher Kamen
17. Der Stamm Kains
18. Mondhaut
19. Mein Retter
20. Wintersonnenwende
21. Ein Mensch Im Kopf

I've heard all the accolades about Samael over the past couple years. It seemed critics were going to smother each other in order to lavish the most praise possible on this young band. And for the most part, while they displayed occasional flashes of brilliance, I just didn't get it. Blood Ritual was so much cheese with only a few moments of actual tortilla. Afterwards, my only other contact with Samael came in the form of the Identity II sampler from Century Media, which still showed only slight progress.

But the band has truly evolved. Xy, the main composer, has forgone the drum kit, instead programming all the intricate rhythms and keyboards. And what a difference that makes! The band now sounds less organic and much more frightening. Vorph has certainly developed into a better vocalist, using more pitches rather than one rasp. The keyboards add a layer of atmosphere which enhances their music tenfold.

Again Waldemar Sorychta (producer of Tiamat, Moonspell, Grip Inc.) has pulled off a sonic masterpiece. Each listen reveals something new about the album and it shows that Samael has the potential to put them in the same league as Tiamat and the other darkwave masters.

Century Media was kind enough to repackage Passage by making it a two CD set with the original version plus keyboardist/composer Xytras' reworking of the album in pseudo-classical form. A very ambitious concept considering the excellent quality of music on Passage, but overall, it isn't terribly impressive. It's almost like Samael Muzak, the elevator black metal soundtrack. Perhaps the problem is in the somewhat cheesy keyboard sounds. The same problem plagued Emperor when they reworked "Inno a Satana" in classical. While the bonus CD for the price of a regular CD makes this a necessary buy for any Samael fan or someone curious about the band, I think that the music would be best served by an actual orchestra performing it rather than a Casio. But hey, my mom will like this.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/1998

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Exodus EP

Samael - Exodus EP ©1998 Century Media
1. Exodus
2. Tribes Of Caïn
3. Son Of Earth
4. Winter Solstice
5. Ceremony Of Opposites
6. From Malkuth To Kether

In the band's tradition of releasing stop-gap EPs between full length albums, Exodus proves to be the perfect bridge between the clinical coldness of Passage and the wide open, warmer Eternal. While some will bemoan Samael's descent into a more keyboard/electronic based musical idiom, the fact remains that the talent in this band is immense and regardless of what style they choose to create music, it remains chock full of quality. Exodus is a demonstration of a band in progress finding their new niche. The Rebellion EP was the first to really hint at the more keyboard-laden/programmed drums approach and Passage took it to the next level. Passage then jumped head first into that and provided an album's worth of icy cold but highly contagious hybrid metal. Exodus has taken that and added a little more depth and warmth in the songwriting. Irrepressibly rhythmic guitar riffing is matched with rather upbeat keyboard playing, especially on "Tribes of Caïn". "Son of Earth" is both heavy and eerie, while "From Malkuth to Kether" is more based in an industrial feel but is exceptionally driving. Exodus on a whole is a solid EP that only furthers my belief that Samael is much better off exploring this area of music. Their incredible talent is truly beginning to blossom now.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 10/1999

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Eternal

Samael - Eternal ©1999 Century Media
1. Year Zero
2. Ailleurs
3. Together
4. Ways
5. The Cross
6. Us
7. Supra Karma
8. I
9. Nautilus & Zepplin
10. Infra Galaxia
11. Being
12. Radiant Star

Disclaimer: if you don't like electronic/industrial/goth or anything of that nature, do not even bother with Eternal. You'll be wasting your time entirely.

With that out of the way, we can continue on with the review of Samael's latest kick in the pants. As expected, Samael is continuing their journey into a hybrid of dark metal, atmospheric goth, and industrial. Upon my initial listen, I realized that this is what Rammstein would sound like if they wrote songs with more substance. Moreoever, much of this captures the slightly disturbed mood Skinny Puppy pursued for years with only occasion success. Xytras' keyboards and drum programming are taking center seat here on Eternal. The guitars still exist, but more in balance with the other instrument and less of a driving force than on Passage. Finally, Vorph has rounded out his vocal performance to cover deep moaning, hoarse recitation and spooky growls. While those who didn't believe the disclaimer are probably flipping out by now, all this has lead to one very enjoyable album that has been spinning non-stop in my CD player since I got the thing. "Us" is a song that theoretically should replace "Du Hast" by Rammstein in popular radio as it is one of the most catchy songs on the album. "Together" has that eerie "chorus of the dead" background keyboard sound and always succeeds in giving me a chill. "Nautilus & Zeppelin" also follows in that path and reminds me a lot of Last Rights-era Skinny Puppy being thrown into a Passage blender. The album remains consistent throughout and the full production is fantastic. At this point I do not know if Eternal will in fact be as eternal as Passage but I can honestly say it deserves a lot of praise for progressing into a new style and doing it with class.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 08/1999

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Reign Of Light

Samael - Reign Of Light ©2004 Nuclear Blast
1. Moongate
2. Inch'Allah
3. High Above
4. Reign Of Light
5. On Earth
6. Telepath
7. Oriental Dawn
8. As The Sun
9. Further
10. Heliopolis
11. Door Of Celestial Peace
12. Telepathic
13. Telepath [Multimedia Track]

Rivalling the likes of Metallica in terms of releasing new albums in a timely manner, Switzerland's Samael has finally resurfaced after a five year hiatus from the music world. During the five years between their debut, Worship Him and 1996's landmark Passage, Samael morphed from a standard black metal band to a hybrid of dark metal and industrial music. Would the five years since 1999's Eternal also serve as a far ranging musical catalyst? How much would Samael evolve in their downtime?

As it turns out, Reign of Light serves as a passable follow-up and minor refinement of the music presented on Eternal. In fact, Reign of Light could easily have been released in 2000 or 2001 and seemed like a logical subsequent release. Whatever Samael has been doing since 1999, it certainly hasn't been extensive musical revamping.

On the whole, Reign of Light sticks to the basic ideas of the last Samael record, simply refining the process a bit. The band still has the Rammstein-for-adults sound, sticking to their synths, drum machines and sinister sneering from Vorph (who could play understudy in Laibach any day of the week). Moreover, the songwriting for Reign of Light is quite solid, making each of the songs pretty darned good. There aren't any instances on this CD where a listener might exclaim, "Holy cow, these chaps have reinvented the wheel and I was there to witness it! With my ears! And screw the fact that witnessing requires eyes!"

There may be a tendency for longtime fans to desire an album that will rewrite musical history and be the best darned thing to come along in the history of underground music. However, this is not the case. Rather, this is simply a good release for a band that has been consistently interesting since their transformation on Passage. Suffice it to say, if you enjoyed Eternal to any degree at all, or have outgrown the entire Rammstein discography, Reign of Light is a worthwhile purchase.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 02/2005

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Solar Soul

Samael - Solar Soul ©2007 Nuclear Blast
1. Solar Soul
2. Promised Land
3. Slavocracy
4. Western Ground
5. On The Rise
6. Alliance
7. Suspended Time
8. Valkyries' New Ride
9. AVE!
10. Quasar Waves
11. Olympus

Samael has become a bit of a creeper band. Their career prime was inarguably in the nineties, particularly around their transition from an orthodox dark metal band (1994's Ceremony of Opposites) to a dark metal band featuring an emphasis on electronics and programmed percussion (1996's Passage). The division in style naturally created camps of differing thought within the fanbase, but Samael has stuck to their guns since then. However, label problems in the early part of the 2000's essentially took Samael, placed them firmly on the back burner and the band has withered in obscurity due to a stunted output of music.

It should be noted that although they've released a mere two studio albums since 1999's Eternal, both have been pretty darned good releases.

Solar Soul doesn't particularly offer another sharp left turn in musical approach for Samael. They're not Ulver, for crying out loud. Rather, Samael seems quite content with their style of dark metal meets electronics and are happy coming up with new songs within that established area. Xy's keyboards feature both dramatic flair and busy arrangements) while Vorph continues to emit his eerie low rasping vocals. The band effectively captures a unique mood that is sustained throughout the album, providing a few standout songs such as "Quasar Waves" and "Western Ground".

While so many bands struggle to produce quality material, yet still receive considerably more publicity, one has to admire a band like Samael who toils away under a relatively lessened profile still releasing strong album after strong album.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 11/2007

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Above

Samael - Above ©2009 Nuclear Blast
1. Under One Flag
2. Viritual War
3. Polygames
4. Earth Country
5. Illumination
6. Black Hole
7. In There
8. Dark Side
9. God's Snake
10. On the Top of it All
11. Black Hole (Verso Mix)

Over the years, Samael has evolved from a primitive black metal band to a hybrid mixture of dark metal and industrial, complete with programmed percussion and extensive keyboard arrangements. But apparently the ol' metal bug bit the band again as Above is a revisitation of their roots, as Samael has put together an intense, heavy, aggressive album that has much more in common with their mid 90s output than their last few releases.

Originally, Above was conceived as a virtual band performing music and lyrics written by Samael. Ultimately, Samael pulled the plug on that promotional venture and simply released the album under their own band name. In interviews, singer/guitarist Vorph describes the album as "the missing link" between Ceremony of Opposites and Passage, which is the point where Samael began their adventure in hybrid metal. I would say that although his intentions are honest, Above greatly benefits from their years working with electronics. On the face of it, Above kicks down the door and absolutely devastates your basement suite. The intensity level is cranked up to ten. These songs do not relent or provide a whole lot of breathing space. However, it is worth noting that because the band had years to explore new dynamics in their music, Above still retains some atmosphere and gains impact in the production. It does sound as though the band even resumed recording live drums alongside some programmed percussion. The electronics still exist, but in significantly more subtle usage. This album is all about thick guitars, fast paced tempos, blast beats and aggression. It occasionally reminds me of what Rotting Christ might be if they were consisently good.

It should bear noting that many metal bands have attempted "returning to their roots" with ulterior motives. Usually, it means a band has staked out a new direction, received heaps of backlash from their fanbase, and meekly rehash their original sound to regain credibility. Or worse, they think an album like St. Anger is going back to roots. Above comes across like Samael genuinely wanted to make an intense album that mixed their old approach with what they've learned over the past fifteen years or so. Each listen has resulted in this album growing on me. Samael has demonstrated yet again that a band with superior talent and songwriting ability can come up with good albums no matter what sonic approach they take.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 03/2009

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