Last updated: 04/16/2008 12:00:00 PM
Few bands have been able to successfully explore the darker sides of metal, and at the same time challenge and satisfy themselves as progressing musicians like Switzerland's own Samael.
Though the band's music and appearance has always been somewhat evil and mysterious, one cannot help but agree that Samael's career has been nothing short of illustrious. They are complete innovators in their field, possessing a never-ending hunger for improvement and creative advancement to go along with a worldwide fan base.
Samael's death metal roots quickly became too tight of a parameter for the band, and early albums, Worship Him and Blood Ritual, only hinted at their songwriting creativity. It wasn't until 1994's Ceremony Of The Opposites album that the band fully lived up to their potential. Concocting wickedly heavy songs that retained a grandiose feel, one that belied their ambition to transcend death metal's self-imposed constrictions.
The fact that the Universe is made of contradictions and opposites is the basis of Samael's philosophy, and has always been the central thread through their steady progression. Their 1996 successful breakthrough album Passage saw brothers Vorph and Xy explode into a realm of limitless imagination and dark, perilous songwriting. Melding wicked riffs, stark lyrics and a menacing, oddly enchanting atmosphere to the songs that can be best described as macabre operettas, Passage offered the most diverse Samael material to date. In fact, all of the drums for Passage were programmed, a move which required meticulous work on Xy's behalf (more so than playing them live would have required). This was just another example of Samael's desire to keep one step ahead of the pack.
The purpose of life is not merely to follow one restrictive path, but to experience all of the elements and to assimilate the best aspects from all your experiences. The same goes for the music of Samael, which is not concerned about the purity and preservation of any one restrictive style but instead takes daring steps with each new recording. When this principle was more of a technical nature on Passage and the ensuing 1998 EP Exodus (metal guitars vs. technology) the dialectics were transferred deep into the compositions and therefore into the aesthetics of their new release, Eternal.
The latest Samael album lives and breathes incredible dynamics generated by the atmospheric passages carried by electronic sounds and heavy beats, as well as majestic and powerful guitar-driven refrains. What was a monolithic, magnificent wall of sound until now widens into a third dimension, gains depth and pulls the listener into sparkling structures that are bathed in the purity of bright light, yet also conceal darkness within their shadowy confines. Produced by David Richards (Rolling Stones, Queen) and recorded at Montain Studio (which has housed such rock greats as Deep Purple and Frank Zappa), Eternal once again offers the band's most dramatic and challenging material.
The opening cut "Year Zero" is reminiscent of the last couple of Samael releases, while the staggered and very progressive sounds of "Ailleurs" and "Us" (which contains some of the most astonishing melodies the band has ever written) show the band is still growing in terms of creativity. The steady, thunderous driving of "The Cross" is another of the album's highlights, as well as the perverse and traditional feel of "Supra Karma".
Samael's goal is and always has been to free the mind from its self-centered state and let it glide into the cosmos - and they have never before managed it as successfully as with Eternal.