"Eternal" (Century Media; 1999)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

"Eternal" is an electricity-charged, cliché-free romp through darkness. This album was made for those of you who wish the dark world of metal could be married with the au courant sounds of electronica. Imagine the eclectic, worldly approach of Peter Gabriel along with the sinister delivery of black metal and you've got Samael's magnificent style. The circuitry of Switzerland's Samael is a little hard to understand at first, but once the taste for this blend of insanity is acquired there is little doubting Samael's powerful performance.

Unlike the irreverent combination of guitars and electronica in Static-X, Samael are dead serious about conceiving and giving birth to the notion that evil dwells in all things. "Eternal" is arresting in its sheer scope. It doesn't matter if the guitars, keyboards, or bass takes prominence in the songs - each instrument is given a chance to shine with studio production lending a helping hand to keeping things fresh. The songs pack a healthy dose of desperation amid the techno diversion giving the music a diverse appeal. The lyrics are implicit in their sinister nature.

The modern pounding of "Year Zero" starts the disc off in grand fashion. However, it's not until the sixth track that Samael really hit their stride. "Us," "Supra Karma," "Being," and "Radiant Star" bristle with vibrancy and resiliency. "Us" heaves back and forth with tension as though it was a living organism breathing with a strong will to live. "Supra Karma" has impressive musical interplay with keyboards taking the melodic lead over top of crushing sustained guitars. "Being" buzzes like a swarm of hornets as the lyrics take the band further into interstellar imagery. Under murky vocals, "Radiant Star" bursts with a fever.

Samael hit a few rough spots, though, in their attempts to expand their vocabulary. "Ailleurs" and "Together" are a bit lacking in energy, but are by no means bad songs.

As always, Samael provide superb, artistic imagery on the disc's artwork. An impressive package all the way around.

"Eternal" was produced by Samael; the band was assisted by David Richards for recording, engineering, and mixing (Richards has previously worked with Queen).

All music was conceived by Xy; all lyrics are brought to life by Vorph. Xy and Vorph are joined by Masimeniem on bass and Kaos on guitar.

For more information visit to get the latest on Samael.

"Exodus" (Century Media; 1998)samaelcd.jpg (8058 bytes)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

The Swiss black metal masters Samael are an engaging mix of death metal grinds, atmospheric passages, industrial and electronic beats, and swaying bass lines; all of this is coupled into an impressive blend that rightfully deserves the modern metal tag. Overall, Samael are slower than most death metal and black metal bands, but not so slow as doom metal. To say Samael are mid-paced is also not sufficient as the band alternates musical passages at varying speeds throughout each song.

"Exodus" is a mini-CD that contains seven tracks of new material and re-worked tracks of evolving technical death metal. Samael, always striving to continue the journey of progress and exploration, reworks "Son Of Earth" and "Ceremony Of Opposites" from their 1994 release "Ceremony Of Opposites." This release also finds Samael giving way to keyboards a bit more than guitars. However, the emanating keyboards do not prevent the guitar from having its moments.

The songs are like little daggers that strike the heart. The music is at once powerful and unsettling - it's an intentional combination of robust driving rhythms and opaque atmospheric passages. It's hard to believe, but elements of Slayer ("Tribes Of Cain"), industrial ("Son Of Earth" and "From Malkuth To Kerher"), and classically influenced keyboards ("Winter Solstice") are combined to provide an interesting study in contradictions which I've come to learn is central to the band's philosophy.

The lyrics are somewhat dark and evil, yet the mysterious vagueness is entrancing as well. The vocals are delivered in a variety of styles giving the already expansive palette of Samael's music an added dimension.

Samael combine the best elements of black metal in the vein of Emperor and Dimmu Borgir (pain and suffering), but also incorporate the traditional elements of rock 'n' roll that got things started in the first place (passion and rebellion) with modern elements (electronics).

Samael are Vorph on vocals and guitar; Xy on keyboards, programming, and percussion; Masmiseim on bass; and Kaos on guitar. The material included with the CD is very sparse (mostly pictures and images and very little writing to help one figure out what these guys are like); no doubt, the lack of information is intentional and adds to the mystery of the band.

For more information visit the band's very interesting website at and enter the dark world of Samael.

"Passage" (Century Media; 1996)

Reviewed by Christopher J. Kelter

Switzerland's Samael are one of heavy metal's best-kept secrets. With "Passage," Samael combine black metal and gothic metal with a touch of European death metal that coalesces into a satisfying brand of mayhem. However, the remarkable restraint exercised by Samael keeps the music from becoming too chaotic. Released in 1997, "Passage" represents a colossal pinnacle of creative expression and dark power of Xy and Vorph.

"My Saviour" is insanity applied to music – the results are staggering. "Liquid Soul Dimension" is a cool track that has Slayer-like overtones. "Born Under Saturn" echoes the military cadence of Metallica's best work. The salient "Silent Kingdom" is over-flowing with intensity. Both tracks show how good Samael are at creating controlled chaos – it's as if the Heisenberg uncertainty principle was destroyed and left for dead.

A glimpse of the future was also displayed on "Passage." The tracks "Angel's Decay" and "Moonskin" are the genesis points of Samael's more atmospheric leanings that would follow on subsequent efforts (the mini CD "Exodus" and 1999's full-length "Eternal").

The vocals are more guttural than the band's subsequent efforts yet the words are still understandable amidst the delirious cacophony.

This package also includes a bonus CD that is Xy's classical interpretation of "Passage." Whilst most Rough Edge readers may not find this addition a particularly interesting piece of music, I believe many will appreciate the intriguing interpretation of heavy metal by Xy (the band's chief songwriter). With Metallica taking time to do "S&M" then there's no reason why a band can't re-interpret its own music.

If you are a Metallica fan that happens to miss the glory days of Metallica's creative peak then "Passage" is probably a great alternative to the recent mainstream product that Metallica has been producing lately.

"Passage" was produced by Waldemar Sorychta (Moonspell, the Gathering). The music for "Passage" was composed by Xy and all the lyrics were conjured by Vorph. Once again, the music was performed by Vorph and Xy.

For more information visit the band's official website at and discover for yourself the evolving legend that is Samael.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.


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Copyright © 2006 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.