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Samael – Passage (Reissue) Award winner

Samael
Passage (Reissue)
by Alex Barnard at 16 January 2022, 8:43 AM

SAMAEL is a legendary Black/Industrial Metal band from Switzerland. “Passage” is the group’s fourth full-length album, originally released by Century Media Records but recently re-released by MDD Records on July 23, 2021.

This album was extremely important in the band’s discography, as it marked the first major step the group took towards becoming a full-on Industrial Metal act and eschewing their traditional Black Metal roots. Its place within their catalog is similar to that of SEPULTURA’s “Chaos A.D.,” as it shows the band has one foot in both doors. The sound of this album conjures up an image of what would happen if DIMMU BORGIR had a child with FEAR FACTORY. While the electronic elements are there, the most noticeable of which being the first time the band used a drum machine in their production, the orchestral motifs reminiscent of such groups as EMPEROR and early ARCTURUS are still prominent enough to make you feel as if you are trapped in some Scandinavian winter landscape – while also running from the Terminator.

Sonically, the production is incredibly tight. One would think that a drum machine would dehumanize the band a little bit, but it greatly adds to the chaotic and evil sound the band is going for (especially during the hellish, Eurotrance-inspired sections on “The Ones Who Came Before”). While Vorph consciously decided to move his lyrical themes away from generalized Satan-worship towards a fascination with the occult, his delivery is Black Metal through and through. The riffs that he shares with second guitarist Kaos are more chugging, plodding, and groovy than your typical Black Metal riffs (the main riffs on “Angel's Decay” are a perfect example of this), but when combined with Xy’s string passages and choral elements, they sound blackened enough. Speaking of Xy, immense kudos to him for the various bits and pieces of Industrial ear candy he sprinkles throughout (e.g. on “Liquid Soul Dimension”). One can tell he is just as much a student of the school of MAYHEM as he is of DEPECHE MODE. And of course, Masmiseîm’s basslines add so much to the harmonies played out in the riffs, yet they’re also very subtle – if you weren’t paying attention hard enough you would barely notice them.

Some of my other favorites from this album are “Born Under Saturn,” whose opening riff is the heaviest one on the album by far; “A Man in Your Head,” which features a heavy Gothic vibe without the cheesy, seductive elements that (some) bands of that particular subgenre seem to enjoy so much; and “Rain,” – my God, what an album opener!

It's great to see this album get a re-issue. While I’m not exactly familiar with SAMAEL’s back catalog, even on my first listen I could tell how much of an impact this album must have had when it was first released in 1996. The elements on “Passage” have all the indications of a true Metal classic, which is a title that I believe is rightfully deserved.

Production: 10
Songwriting: 10
Musicianship: 10
Memorability: 10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Rain
2. Shining Kingdom
3. Angel's Decay
4. My Saviour
5. Jupiterian Vibe
6. The Ones Who Came Before
7. Liquid Soul Dimension
8. Moonskin
9. Born Under Saturn
10. Chosen Race
11. A Man in Your Head
Lineup:
Vorph – Guitars, Vocals, Lyrics
Kaos – Guitars
Masmiseîm – Bass
Xy – Keyboards, Drum programming, Songwriting
Record Label: MDD Records
     


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