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SAMAEL               "Passage"      "Ceremony of Opposites"       reissue


 "Passage" and "Ceremony Of Opposites" are two groundbreaking albums by the Swiss Black Metallers SAMAEL.

Both albums, as different as they may be, are cult and belong to every  CD collection. Our Matthew Haumschild strikes back in GryphonMetal reviewing these reissues under the label MDD Records, speaking about a band of which he is an expert.

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          Samael, I will have to start off by saying that I am a bit biased about this ban. Being madly in love with Reign of Light and Solar Soul as part of my list of “10/10” albums, I have a certain affinity for Samael. Matter of fact, I got into Samael in 2000 or so, “Supra Karma” from the Eternal album was on a Century Media mix CD and I thought, “what an interesting sounding band” with “world-music” sounding elements of a conga, piano/synth, metal guitars and metal singing, I found (and still do) the music and the band amazing. So much so, that when I purchased Eternal I also purchased Passage too. For half of my life now, I’ve been listening to this band. Matter of fact, when I was living in Mesa Arizona (a very hot place to be in the summer), I left my Passage CD on my dashboard when I parked my car outside my workplace, and the jewel case warped because it was so hot. Luckily for me, the disc was still intact!

            Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to see Samael perform in Saint Paul USA. I had always really liked Samael and I was so excited to see them, and they didn’t disappoint. To this day, they are one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live. I liked the show so much that a year or two later, they were going to tour the U.S. again with Moonspell. The tour wasn’t going to be near where I lived, so I booked a flight to Dallas to see the show. About a week or two after I read the announcement, I bought the flight ticket and hotel. Not too long after that, Samael drops off the tour and I haven’t seen them since.


            The Inevitable Comparison

            It had been requested to review both of these albums together but honestly they’re very different from each other. For one thing, the recording and production quality of both other them are night and day. Ceremony of Opposites (COO) is massively inferior to Passage in both of those categories. When listening to both albums, one after the other, it felt like I was listening to a semi-professional local band and something far more polished. The music is so much deeper and more put together on Passage that I really wouldn’t want to compare the two because it would be unfair to COO, Samael was on a budget and I’m sure Century Media didn’t give them as much money to record that one as they did Passage. If they had, it would have turned out differently. Some might point out that COO was released in 1994 as opposed to Passage in 1996 although they were produced and recorded by the same people, but one can tell the difference immediately. The guitars are a bit thinner, the drums not as full, and the synth doesn’t envelope the listener as it does in Passage. This could be because Samael, would soon discover who and what they were in terms of sound and writing quality.


             Ceremony of Opposites

            I hadn’t noticed before I began listening to this album, I knew some these songs already. “Son of Earth” and “Ceremony of Opposites” appear on their “Exodus” EP which came out after Passage. I will be bringing this up at the end.


            When I look at the year this album came out, 1994, and who produced it, Waldemar Sorychta, I try to imagine what it was like to release this album at that time, Sorychta, has touched many of the albums I own from Lacuna Coil, Sentenced, Moonspell, Tiamat, and others. But more specifically, in the era of the early to mid-’90s, while in the United States at least, Metal became faux pas to the onrush of grunge and alternative music, Sorychta was producing this album, Moonspell’s “Wolfheart,” “Irreligious”, “Sin/Pecado”, Tiamat’s “Wildhoney,” and others. Those albums have a sound to them when compared to what was far more popular, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots, or even the metal that was being produced (underground and before the internet) Pantera, Machine Head, Korn, The Offspring, etc. This album and the other albums Sorychta produced were ahead of their time before those musicians developed and became better as the years went on. COO can be heard as a blast from the past and what came before we (the real fans of metal) come to listen to our daily lives.


            My final thoughts:     

            The songs that stand out to me for this album include: “Black Trip,” “Flagellation,” and “Till We Meet Again.” Most people love listening to “Baphomet’s Throne” and consider it a classic, and there was a music video for that song, but I didn’t like it. The video for the song was made with such poor quality, even a the time when it came out, that it never enticed me to watch it, and because of that and this shaped my opinion of the song... Honestly, I probably wouldn’t put this album in my rotation. There just isn’t enough here that stands out to me as a good album. Sure, the tracks I mentioned above are okay, but when in retrospect, they don’t even compare to the other work performed by the band, and honesty, it’s a miracle the band made it to the next level.



            When I was asked to write about this album, I couldn’t help but smile. This album, as mentioned above, has been in my collection for a long time and I’ve listened to it countless times. The first four tracks of the album take me to a whole other place when I listen to it. The songs demand the listeners' attention from the first 10 seconds of “Rain” as “Shining Kingdom” reminds me of a soundtrack to a 2nd part of a dark story that just captures the imagination. “Angel’s Decay” has this beat at the beginning that sounds infectious and honestly just in that opening section, any musician can come up with something very creative, I’m surprised it isn’t sampled by other musical genres. “My Saviour” is a bit slower however, it still takes me to this place of a dark history, still capturing my imagination.


The controversial bit…

            “Jupiterian Vibe” has confused me as a song ever since I first heard it all those years ago. Why Samael chose to make a video for this, I do not know. Every time I listen to this song, I feel like I’m drunk and I’m having a bad trip. It’s spacey and near nonsensical. Maybe it’s the congas that are being played in the background combined with synth parts that somehow don’t exactly mesh with guitar parts but somehow make up the song and make it somewhat flow…it’s just confusing. The first four tracks of this album would have been better to market than Juperterian Vibe.


            “The Ones Who Came Before” is just a banger of a song. The first minute of the song grabs the listener by the shirt and throws the weary listener into a black hole of double kick drums and slow, creepy, and powerful singing. This song is perfect to crank or play rather loudly in any environment. I could see a modern band covering this song and making it even more epic than it already is. This is a great combination of different styles of atmospheric synth, electric almost techno drums, fused with metal guitar, and slow dark-sounding singing. It totally takes the singer to a whole other plane of existence.


            My final thoughts:

            If I could ask the band something about this album, I’d love for them to explain to me what “Chosen Race” is about. For one thing, it’s a terrible song title which could draw negative conclusions, so I’d love for them to explain what it is. Also, with as many times as I’ve listened to this album, I still can’t sing any of the lyrics. Although I think it humorous in that I don’t have a clue what he’s singing, but it sounds great.  I love this album, everyone should have it in their collection (in one shape form, or another). This is the beginning of where Samael comes into their own, the next few albums through Solar Soul are just brilliant, so if you haven’t already, listen and listen often. 


Matthew Haumschild

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