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Lux Mundi is Samael’s tenth full-length effort in a career filled with experimental moments and marked by a very extensive and varied set of albums. This record sees the band playing it safe for the first time by travelling on the same path of their 1996 masterpiece Passage. Seen by many as the true spiritual successor to that same album, Lux Mundi presents itself as a more familiar effort in such a disparate back catalogue, by borrowing its main traits from not only Passage but also Solar Soul. So a new Samael album based on two of their best records can’t possibly be a bad thing despite the occurring similarities.
And it’s with no surprise that we acknowledge that the band’s appetence for mid-tempo industrial anthems filled with heavy riffing and layering keyboards, with some tribal influences and electronic elements, is still untouched. Vorph’s voice is as good as ever and his low register still makes you tremble with emotion as much as his raspy bark makes you tremble with fear. The bass has again some space to breathe in a mix that gives little privilege to the drumming department, with the bass drum appearing very low in the mix and being rendered almost unhearable. Thus is the case shown on the bombastic and thundering opener “Luxferre”, or it would be if the bass drum could be heard. The song has its fair share of double bass use but it’s more felt than heard, and this ends up also hindering “In The Deep”.
The album is structured in the same way as Solar Soul, with twelve tracks scattered through near fifty minutes, with an average of four minutes each, and as usual they work very well as a tight unit. From the mid-paced and keyboard laden “Let My People Be!” to the brutal and unrelenting closer “The Truth Is Marching On”, one of the heaviest songs from the band that’s filled with blast beats, we’re always treated with great songs that showcase and encompass Samael’s songwriting style through the ages. Noteworthy moments are found almost everywhere as the problem here isn’t one of bad compositions or riffs and hooks that fail to catch your attention, but rather a similarity to past works and what feels like a rehashing of their simplistic, yet effective formula.
Both “Of War” and “Antigod” are imperial marches at a sluggish pace through the ranks of the enemies, walking tall and swaying the axe amongst them and spreading fury and fear on the poor souls of the soon to be dead. There are some infectious choruses like the ones found on “The Shadow Of The Sword” and “Soul Invictus” and it’s hard not to let those follow you through the rest of the day. The obligatory tribal moment comes in the form of “In The Deep”, a song glorifying the deity naming the band that features great orchestral arrangements and use of the typical Samael breakdowns.
The album has some flaws, with the lack of a properly mixed drum bass being my main complaint. Heavier tracks that would otherwise be filled with rampant double bass are found here restrained behind a mix that doesn’t favour them, instead sounding a bit flat. One other factor might be accounted as a flaw, and that is the lack of originality of the songs presented, although with such a delivery it’s hard to care about that as much as consider it a flaw per se. What you’ll find here is a great display of the band’s skills as musicians and a sum up of what they’ve been doing for the past twenty years, and the compositions are all pretty good with hooks and choruses abound for you to be captivated.
Lux Mundi is the embodiment of Samael doing their formula the right way while delivering an album filled with everything expected from them. This is its main drive as any fan of the band will find something to enjoy despite its lack of novelty. It might not be Samael’s finest hour nor their most original effort, but it’s worthy of your money and attention. I find it to be a pretty good album and I keep it close to me for those times when a good Samael fix is required.
Having long harbored an obsequious deference towards Samael's 1996 epic Passage, I have eagerly awaited, with each new album in the band's repertoire, a return to that cosmic plateau of songwriting capability. Through Exodus, through Reign of Light, and then the lacking Solar Soul, the subtext might not have changed from the Swiss band's electronic/dark metal hybrid, but the returns seemed to diminish as the band would foray into goofier vocals and betrayed potential, all in the name of crass experimentation. Enter Above, the band's last album, and there was a slight angling back towards the path of greatness they once strode mightily upon. It was a heavy album, the heaviest since their formative black metal years, and an enjoyable one, but I could not help but feel something was missing...
Only to be 'found' for Lux Mundi. No, the 8th full-length is not precisely the long awaited return to flawless, iconic composition that I was crossing my fingers for this past decade, but it's about as close as the band has yet come to Passage. A number of the tracks cautiously merge the stomping gallantry of the primal metallic guitar patterns with the extra-terrestrial, ethereal use of choirs and symphonic components that converge upon Vorphalack's garbled prose like alien shadows, backed by an even more realistic feel to the drum programming. No, these are not compositions with the immortal capacity of a "Jupiterian Vibe", "Moonskin", "Rain" or "Shining Kingdom", but you'd be surprised just how close they come in terms of overall atmospheric aesthetic. Pieces like the bombastic "Of War" or "In the Deep" and it's harmonic plucking come startlingly close in theme, riven with crushing philosophical weight in contrast to the beautiful, interstellar aspersions cast through Xytras' keyboards.
There are a few mildly lighter, accessible tracks ("The Shadow of the Sword", "In Gold We Trust") interspersed among the heavier fare that should thrill devotees of Reign of Light or Eternal, only threaded with a greater perceptible ballast. But the majority seem to have a martial pattern to them which recounts "Jupiterian Vibe", with lots of jarring chugs and militant swells that satisfy the listener's sense of wonder and belligerence. To an extent, Lux Mundi does feel like a regression, as if the band were coming full circle towards stretches of space that they had previously saturated in sound, but this is only harmful if you loathed the band's 1994-99 body of work, which I clearly did not. This is at least the best the band has written since its divisive Eternal, and in truth it's better mixed and more muscular sounding. The album feels quite a lot like greeting an old friend through an airlock, the landing bay behind him cast in the glow of a crescent planetary body and manifold of distant stars. Permission to come aboard? Permission granted. Well done. Welcome back. Take off your space suit and stay awhile.