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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.