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Samael - Ceremony Of Opposites (Reissue)

Ceremony Of Opposites (Reissue)
by Tommy Mulhern at 19 January 2022, 10:41 AM

In a certain book of fairy tales there is a character called Samael. As an agent of god he is seen as both good and bad at his masters request. Now I’m no expert on bible studies but this seems to prophesise the career of the band of the same name; good up to 1995 and bad after, maybe at the behest of a record label boss - who knows? What I do know is they disappointed many a young metal-head when they took a new musical path in the mid nineties. But before they did they left us with a fine album in Ceremony Of Opposites. Oh and you’re welcome all of theology, one less allegory to unravel.

Formed in Sion, Switzerland in 1987 SAMAEL began as a first-wave Black metal band but with a few unusual nuances. The production was a little beefier, the riffs slid between thrash and heavy metal, more CELTIC FROST than MAYHEM and there was a far more accomplished use of keyboards than most of their peers. But it was on their third full length album Ceremony Of Opposites that the perfect formula came together. It’s at times harsh, groovy, brooding, joyous, gothic, catchy and yes all these disparate adjectives all at once. To capture all these different elements and make it work is an achievement in itself but they do all this while maintaining an overarching Black metal feel. The album begins with arguably their best ever song "Black Trip", with its catchy straightforward riffs, mid paced and cleverly changing tempos and it’s understated and complementary keyboards continuing throughout the record. "Son of Earth", "Mask of the Red Death" and "Baphomet’s Throne", the latter beginning with a very memorable and bombastic sample, are arguably as strong but in all fairness all ten tracks are top class. The production fits the sound perfectly giving each instrument an even footing, something most black metal failed to do up to this point, especially with the bass guitar but something that second wave bands were working hard on changing. This was definitely an innovative and accessible record that appealed to Goths and Death and Black metallers alike at the time. It opened my eyes to bands like ROTTING CHRIST and MOONSPELL, both label mates of SAMAEL and all three bands influenced and took influence from each other for sure.

Unfortunately for me, and seemingly a lot of other fans, SAMAEL took that change of direction in the mid nineties. They swapped their live drumming for programmed ones and went more Industrial and keyboard reliant than before. Just when I thought I had found the perfect band they took a rather bizarre U-turn, (like when COVENANT brought out Nexus Polaris then changed their name a little and brought out an incredibly pathetic Dance/Industrial record a few years later). But like that album, I still revisit it as I do Ceremony of Opposites and appreciate it for the incredible album it was and still is. I hope anyone who discovers it through this re-issue will agree.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Black Trip
2. Celebration Of The 4th
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
Vorphalack – Vocals and guitars
Rodolphe H. – Keyboards and sampler
Masmiseim – Bass
Xy – Drums and programming
Record Label: MDD Records


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