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After a prolific nineties’ decade that spawned five albums and three EPs, Samael would go under the radar for five years until 2004 when they released their sixth album Reign Of Light. This record marks the return of the Swiss quartet after a period where they concentrated on live performances, which led to the release of their Black Trip double DVD. The records released during the nineties were filled with experimentation in different sounds and resulted in the most creative phase of Samael’s career, making way for the next decade to be the moment where all that experimentation would blossom into a more defined songwriting style.
On this album the band opts for a comeback to the electronic soundscapes found on Eternal but now with a different approach, including the addition of some world music and tribal rhythms and melodies. Female choirs are mildly distributed along some songs and these factors make up for a rather ethereal and eastern sounding album. The tempo of the songs is also much slower and less frantic presenting Reign Of Light as a more laid back and relaxed album than the ones before. You can say that while Eternal was a journey through the stars at hyperspeed, Reign Of Light is a heathen dance through the cultures of today with a very typical flavour of humanity in its most joyous form.
The album begins on a quiet note with “Moongate” and its 1001 Nights theme resounding through the speakers just before the main riff comes in and takes main stage. You notice almost immediately that Vorph’s tone is deep and relaxed as in slower songs of the previous album like “Infra Galaxia”. There’s a clear predominance of clean vocals on this album and songs like “High Above”, “Further” and “On Earth” showcase this perfectly. The later is a piece that reminds me of Metallica’s “Wherever I May Roam” or Psychotic Waltz’s “Haze One”, not because it shares any musical similarities but rather because of its theme. It seems to be, like the two mentioned songs, an anthem about living on the road doing show after show and embracing it as a natural part of life. Despite its cheesiness it’s actually a great song with a very catchy chorus.
The album has a clear orientation towards the east as it seems to be a conceptual album, albeit in a loose manner. With the amount of Arabic melodies and song names like “Oriental Dawn” and “Heliopolis” this concept seems to find its inspiration on the ancient races of the world and the sand surrounding them. There’s only one faster track here and it detaches itself from the flock clearly by sounding very different than the rest of the album. I’m talking about the title track which sounds very much like something Judas Priest could have included on Screaming For Vengeance. Its pace is practically speed metal and a not so subtle “Electric Eye” vibe is present during most of it and the chorus is the only thing resembling the rest of the songs here. I find it to be an interesting song despite being a bit out of place within this album.
There aren’t many surprises to be found here and it seems that the years on the road may have tarnished a bit the career direction that Samael intended to go for. A fact that must be taken into consideration is the label hopping that the band undergone by his point, having left Century Media which accompanied them for over a decade. This is always a factor that causes some instability within a band and it may have been a reason to why this album isn’t as strong as it should be. Reign Of Light also marks the debut of their new guitarist which continues to fill the spot until today, and he proves to be a good companion to Vorph.
I was actually expecting this one to blow my mind after having heard both Eternal and Solar Soul before, and this being the album in-between those two. Maybe I raised my expectations too highly but the fact remains that Reign Of Light strikes me as an album just for certain occasions. When I feel like listening to some laid back music and Samael comes to mind this is the album I put on, it has melodies abound and enough catchy choruses to sing along and its speed is kept under a tight leash never getting bombastic. Instead it keeps a dreamy ambience and smooth smell of sand and spices with caressing melodies flowing around. It proves to be a worthy listen and a good album by the band but requires me to be in a specific mood, thus not being so instantly likeable. It’s not boring but comes of as a bit uninspired while still retaining Samael’s essence.
This album saw Samael during a troubled time of their careers, with label and line-up changes put together on top of a long period on the road, ultimately making it less than it could be. It’s a moody album for quiet hours but still has enough of that Samael scent to be enjoyed as such, so give it a chance as it might grow on you.
One of the first metal bands to which I’ve been exposed, Samael have led quite a special career. The band started out as a classic, necro mix of black and death metal during the late 80s and early 90s. At that stage they began evolving towards a slightly more industrial sound in the mid 90s, albeit one which was still heavily rooted in metal and gave off a huge space vibe, as exemplified by the high quality Passage album. They kept on going in that direction, adding industrial elements, shortening their stage names and making the music catchier each time which losing a bit of their metal past. Eternal was still quite good but then came this… Reign of Light.
This album is the point in their career where the metal elements reached an all-time low. This honestly sounds more at home at the Eurovision contest than on Metal-Archives. The guys’ songwriting skills are still prevalent and, much like Peter Tägtgren’s side project Pain, what might be a complete trainwreck had it been written by some nobody is turned into a catchy, almost decently done industrial album. For the most part. That’s because, like many similar efforts, the amount of filler and of songs which get hideously irritating is quite high.
Analysed individually, none of the album’s various elements contain what one usually associates with metal, let alone extreme metal. The vocals would be right at home on any number of industrial bands’ albums, although they’re still the evident result of the gradual evolution from mid-era Samael. Vorph performs a kind of semi-clean vocals in his usual recognizable voice, with a slight, greatly reduced rasp, reminiscent of the band’s glory days. The vocals aren’t really the problematic part; in fact they’re what make the highlights (the good songs’ choruses) actually enjoyable. The music is driven by a keyboard-guitar combination which, instead of featuring the latter instrument in prominence, reduces it to a few buried riffs here and a supporting role for the keyboards, which are by the most important part of the music. Melodies which pop stars wouldn’t shy away from putting into their albums are prevalent here and they’re sometimes used with good taste but more often than not become annoying and seem out of place. Additionally, the drumming is insanely repetitive and slow, with a sound which is extremely distant from what anyone expects from a metal album. This sounds more like a shitty club beat than like actual drumming, which is what the overall production seems to favor as well.
Looking back at that paragraph, a part-by-part analysis of this album makes it sound horrible. Fortunately the aforementioned songwriting skills these guys possess come in to save a certain portion of this album. When they succeed, they create insanely memorable songs which are catchy enough to be hits, preferably to an audience used to a good amount of industrial elements into their music (dance music kiddies will probably still dislike this), and the (good) songs actually have a high replayability value, which is what such an album should strive for. The opener, Moongate, is relatively good (the vocals are well-done) but both the structure and the keys are a bit off and annoying, respectively. Inch’Allah is, however, a masterpiece of industrial/electronic, mostly due to the perfectly arranged chorus where the vocals and keyboards create a soaring, epic atmosphere. The exact same thing can be said of the title track but perhaps even more so (better, catchier), with some good guitar work thrown in as well. The other primary highlight is Further, basically the only really good song on the latter half of the album and a more slow-paced, somehow relaxed song compared to the previous great ones.
The rest of Reign of Light basically goes from either decent but slightly unremarkable industrial songs (Telepath, Heliopolis), some of which were pitiful attempts at commercial success, to a large amount of filler and even a couple of really gay songs, namely As The Sun and the catchy but laughably cheesy On Earth, a single which, once you realize that half the world’s capitals are mentioned and that lines such as these exist, just make you wonder what the fuck happened to the guys who released albums like Blood Ritual :
Touching the sky with our hands
Longing to love to understand
Reign of Light is a very strange and inconsistent album. One the one side it contains great songwriting and a few stellar moments yet on the other it fails are being anything remarkable or important. Luckily Samael have moved a bit closer to metal since this album, although they’re still a bit too close to this whole post-modern industrial image/sound for my tastes. Anyone interested in the band should definitely check out every single album preceding this and might even want to just stop there, perhaps get the good songs from this album. Purchasing Reign of Light is only recommended to those wishing to complete their Samael collection or to people who desire an industrial album without balls.
With 2004's Reign Of Light, after almost 5 years since their last album, Samael, again, redefined their own style and created yet another musical dimension in their sound. As always, this is a band of evolutions. After an LP like Eternal which sounded dissapointing to many, they came with something closer to their Passage masterpiece. This album isn't really better than Passage, but the best I can say is that it's equal. As a matter a fact, it's difficult to compare Passage, Eternal and Reign Of Light, due to the fact that each of them is so different from the other. After all, it will be down to you to decide which of the three is the best. Take it for granted that the combination of styles sounds amazingly well!
What's for sure is that the musical genius, Xytras, is back with an unsurpassed melodicity combined with Vorphalack's harsh and violent vocals, which sound angrier than ever. What's so great about this is that you can actually *understand* a large part of the lyrics. I've been listening to Black Metal for some years now, but this is the first album where the sound IS black metal and quite a good part of the lyrics can be understood. The other will make sense when reading them. If you're an open minded rocker, you'll absolutely love this album.
This release is another step forward for Samael, the band that started with some run of the mill demos, three LPs largely preocupied with satanism and the occult and that after grew into one of the most innovative metal bands in the world. The lyrics on this album are largely about life and existence (from what I've been able to understand). Since Passage, this has been a band that grew up a lot. Vorph's (f.k.a. Vorphalack) lyrics were previously entangled in the satanic and occult but have now grown to a much higher level, proving just how much this band can bring: good music AND good lyrics, which is quite rare.
In conclusion, this album can be considered, close, equal or even better than the masterpiece Passage and re-affirms Samael's position in the Metal world as one of the most experimental and original bands on the planet!
Samael is quite a band, betraying their fan bases all over and over again. At least it indicates some creativity. Personally I feel this is Samael’s best piece of work so far, but then I’ve never really cared for kvlt black metal and the in-between albums that I feel are totally pointless (i.e. Passage). Now, the problem in describing Samael’s music is that it is so unique. Basically it consists of the steady drumming of industrial metal, played out by very competently programmed machines.
The guitars, electrically buzzing form the melody onto which the guitarist’s brother’s thick synths are attached. The bass is in the background, and the vocals are almost spoken with the certain roughness that I imagine Vorph caught back in the growling days. Oh well, the keyboards played by Xytraguptor/Xytras/Xy (next time he must change his name to X). They are really odd, and make Samael the special band they are.
They play out a virtual drapery of electronic chords that I find very compelling. It’s dark and it is heavy in a very skilled way, the way only masters of industrial music can succeed in, with the drum beat just pressing and the synthal sounds sweeping like sonic waves of different density. I hate using scientific metaphors, but it really feels that way. First the drums producing an undeniably heavy, dense force, shoving around the keyboard chords like light gas molecules. On top of that are the vocals, dark and somehow robotic – constantly mangling out from the speakers with its dark but inspiring message. Samael is a band that must be experienced to be understood, and the music is well worth the trouble one might have finding Reign of Light.