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While Samael wouldn't ultimately jump back on the horse for me until the angrier, 2009 effort Above, their seventh full-length 'heavy' album (discounting the experimental contractual filler Era One/Lesson in Magick #1) Solar Soul at least pulled out a little damage control for the stunningly mediocre Reign of Light. In other words, it was clear by this point that they had hit their nadir, swirled around the bottom of whatever bottle was indulging their respective identity crises, and decided to swim back up to the surface and take a few breaths. Once again, I really, really enjoyed this when I first came across it, but was obviously listening through rose-colored...ear. After a few months or so, I came to the decision that this was not in fact some savior of a record to reaffirm they could attain the brilliant level they were at in the mid 90s.
However, the songwriting chops here seem to hearken to their glory days, and there are actually a few tunes on this one which I'd include with any career-wide highlight reel. It's still quite a bit cheesy in the lyrical department, recycling the 'let's all hold hands together' globalist hippie garbage promoted so heavily on the prior few albums, almost like this band of former Swiss occultists had suddenly discovered Krishna, or tantra, or universal unitarianism, or whatever. But at least the music here serves up a serious beating when matched against the electroid detritus of Reign of Light and Era One... The guitars still bounce back and forth between the inspirational hooks and chords of earlier works and the vapid dumbell chugging of the most LCD industrial metal you can fathom, but there is far more effort placed in the context of harmonies and other melodic structures. It's a busier album than Eternal, for example, and I really like that the guitars were reasserting themselves as a riffing force rather than passive accompaniment to the beats and synthesizers. Remarkably, it still adheres to that sense of Romantic escapism which defined that album as so unique at the end of the 90s...
...to the point that I really feel like, if you stripped off its production and just analyzed how the songs played out, it's like an amalgamation of tracks that were left on the cutting room floor during both the Eternal and Reign of Light sessions, but with a refined production that itself is stronger than either. There are a couple dragging, lame tracks where they err on the electronic side a little too much (like "Western Ground" or the Rammstein-in-the-Orient vibes of "Quasar Waves") but they also beat you over the head a few times, foreshadowing the aggression level of Above ("On the Rise", or the chorus to "Valkyries'"). The synthesized horns smack of Reign of Light and Passage both, the vocals are largely in the style they had been since 1994, but once awhile they'd surprise me with a tune that follows in the 'spirit' of a precursor, but adds a new twist in the keyboard pads used, or the direct construction of the rhythm guitars. For instance, "Olympus" seems like a callback to "Jupiterian Vibe", but the guitars are nearly as interesting, more so than something like "Ave!", which isn't so compelling, or the prior decade's "Tribes of Cain" which was obviously a less inspired rehash they didn't want on Passage itself due to the redundancy it would create for the listener.
In the end, though, Solar Soul just doesn't go far enough into either a new direction or back into the past to really have made much of a difference. It thankfully and deservedly avoided the dumping on that Reign of Light took, but after perhaps a half dozen listens I recall shelving it and rarely having the interest in hearing it again when Passage, Ceremony of Opposites or Eternal were available to me. A tight album, which fixes some of that awkwardness which stunted its predecessor, and confirms to the more confused corner of their audience that they weren't going vocal electronica full-time (which a few folks might have feared when hearing Era One); and not unpleasant to listen to. In 2007, I might have ranked this a point or so higher, but time hasn't been the kindest in terms of keeping this set of songs moored in my memory banks, so it remains among their least visited albums in my collection, excepting the two before it. If nothing else, Samael seemed to be gaining ground again, instead of losing it, and the gradual incline in quality it hastened has since continued through Above and Lux Mundi.
After the striking disappointment of an album that took five years to be released Samael knew they had to do something much better with their next attempt. They had to either come back in full force or they would probably fade away for sure. Solar Soul is only the third album released in a period of eight years, and making anything less than a thought-provoking album would probably be their nadir as a band and certainly their demise. Armed with this redeeming courage for expunging their recent past they would release that which is a serious contender to their most classical and well accomplished albums.
The notion of Samael crystallizing their past experiences and experimentations into a defined and more so unified array of elements, binding together all the industrial and electronic elements with their ability to create heavy riffs of great magnitude, was one that started to hover the band after the release of Eternal. With Reign Of Light already showing some signs of what their new sound would become it was then imperative for its successor to be something more worthwhile, and I must say that this album definitely hits home.
Opening this record is the bombastic title track with its angelic choirs and breakbeat rhythm, showing a great mixture of the electronic elements put together with Samael’s signature riffing, and showing the band prone on writing a more guitar-oriented record. The chorus is extremely catchy and this song proves to be a great opener. After such a treat we’re then presented with a set of strong tracks that all deliver in their own distinctive way; be it with the folkloric keyboard arrangements found on “Promised Land”, the earth-shattering “Slavocracy” that keeps my neck moving back and forth relentlessly with its main section, or the oriental-style ballad “Western Ground” that brings memories of the best moments of Reign Of Light, and even the impressive “On The Rise” with its infectious main riff that keeps the song going on. As usual the band delivers a strong first half with an impressive and poignant delivery that strikes your attention immediately, thus setting the mood for the rest of the album.
The remaining tracks are all of very high quality and the album is cleverly structured, with the songs going for an average length of around four minutes. This makes for very direct songs that keep repetition to a minimum, never repeating a chorus or a main section more than two, or at most three times, and making this collection of twelve tracks an easily digestible meal that never tastes too much of the same. Two other tracks here strike me as highlights in this collective of tunes, those being “Valkyries’ New Ride” and “Ave!”. Both feel like immediate keepers, with the first being a frantic ride (don’t mind the redundancy) at hyperspeed that brings back memories of Eternal yet delivered in a more thunderous approach, while the later presents an enormous barrage of chorus and breakdowns that keep me banging my head like a freaking maniac. There’s also a special participation from Tristania’s former front woman and soprano Vibeke Stene during the chorus of “Suspended Time” and it shows to be a an interesting addition to the album.
The production on Solar Soul is perfect as it would be expected from a seasoned band like Samael, and there are never moments where the synths overpower the rest of the instruments. Instead they all co-exist without ever being clashed against each other in an unorderly fashion. Everything falls in the right places and you can expect to go crazy on air guitars from time to time as they have a lot of room to breathe, as has the bass work of Mas which is again visible after being a bit absent on their past couple of works. Xy’s capacity as a songwriter and Vorph’s abilities as a bellowing demon are also kept intact and more than that, they’re shown here at the top of their form.
Solar Soul is an album that despite not being as original or strikingly impressive as Ceremony Of Opposites or Passage, still manages to instill you with a sensation of watching something wonderful bloom in front of you. It’s an album which is well above the remainder of the band’s discography, bar only the two aforementioned albums, and one that strikes as the perfect condensation of all the ideas and experimentations that the band had during their formative period. Samael have definitely found their own private niche in the metal world and developed a sound that’s pretty much their own and which they clearly mastered with this album.
If you want to try the post-Passage discography of the band then this is the best place to start, as Solar Soul proves to be a great amalgamation of the best features on their new path but with enough traces to its past self. This is a great album that can be easily recommended for fans of any era of the band and one that shows that the Swiss quartet is still capable of doing great things on the twenty-first century.
If there’s anything to be said about this dynamic Swiss group, it’s that Samael haven’t been afraid to challenge listener expectations. Starting off as another black metal band in 1987, the group eventually digressed from their roots and began exploring a more industrial-oriented sound that grew and changed with each successive release. Eventually, by the time of their 1994 release Ceremony of Opposites, the band’s style left little recollection of their seminal works… electronic influences had been thoroughly incorporated into their sound, which grew increasingly prevalent in their following works. By the time of Reign Of Light, the metallic sound practically vanished in favour of electronica. Blast beats and dark, sinister guitar riffs felt less important than the groovy, post-Rammstein sound that older fans had began to condemn them for.
Solar Soul isn’t exactly a rendition of their older works, but it certainly brings back a much heavier sound that’s going to come as a mild refreshment to listeners who’re sick of electronic influences. The industrialised sound of Reign of Light hasn’t so much receded as it has been worked into the guitarwork better; the album kicks off with a synthesised drumbeat that leaves a listener expecting another industrialised composition… before throwing itself into a majestic sounding melody. The overall result is an extremely compelling and unique listen, one that embodies the style Samael appear to have been developing over the years.
Vorph’s gruff, semi-spoken vocals accompany the epic, catchy feel of many of the album’s songs, particularly as heard on Slavocracy. It’s unsure whether or not the drumming’s programmed, but it’s nevertheless worked perfectly into the mesh of the music’s overall composition. Many of the songs bear maddeningly vague folk-like melodies that blur a confusing line between industrial and Samael’s own unique style. Sadly, the album couldn’t defy listener expectations forever; by the time Western Ground started, the beats and melodies began growing a little repetitive, and the album’s initially majestic feel began to slink. On the Rise and Alliance felt as aimless as the following track’s title, Suspended Time, might suggest. Even the hauntingly beautiful voice of guest star Vibeke Stene (of Tristania) failed to break through the song’s monotony enough for it to be of outstanding interest. The album’s tedium was broken a little by the time of Quaser Waves, where guest appearance Sami Yli-Sirniö (of Kreator) pledges his Sitar-playing skills to bring the already catchy verses into a refreshing listen.
Overall, this album’s wrought with interesting surprises and catchy guitarwork that make it an incredibly interesting listen, one that might impress those who were disappointed by Reign of Light. Those of us who prefer the darker, truly heavier side of metal might find little to appreciate in Solar Soul, as the synthesised percussion and down-tuned riffs during many songs would have us switching it off in preference to something heavier. Still, if you’re open-minded and adventurous, Solar Soul will have all you need for a unique and distinctive listen.
(Originally written for VampireFreaks Magazine, Fall 2007)
Samael are a relatively old band, beginning in 1987. Originally they set out to create raw black metal, similar in sound to fellow countrymen Hellhammer and in doing so they were ahead of their time making this sort of music before the infamous Norwegian second wave of black metal caught on and redefined the tag. However, after numerous releases from Samael, the band decided to pursue an electronic/industrial sound. 2007 has arrived and the band are still effective at manufacturing industrial music that does not get dreary, limp or repetitive in the slightest.
Solar Soul is completely entrenched in mystical spacey soundscapes and catchy arcane synthesisers. The music has a curiously dark feel, escorted by bold colourful guitar melodies, such as in the song ‘Alliance’. Vocalist Vorph provides alien style vocals, perfect for this type of music and the listener never tires of hearing them. The opening number ‘Solar Soul’ is a nice summary of what the listener will endure for the remainder of the album and is not in anyway overwhelming.
‘Quasar Waves’ is difficult to forget, predominantly due to its Eastern ambience incorporated into the music. This is something that is definitely not present in other industrial acts. Conversely, the song ‘Ave!’ has some crunchy passages to it but retains its power, almost like a metal song. This can be contrasted to ‘Western Grounds’ twinkly feel creating a very visual atmosphere to the listener.
All in all, this album is definitely worth buying for Samael fans and does not disappoint. Those expecting some sort of return to roots album (which honestly, must be very few) will be let down of course. Still, I would say with confidence that this is an album metalheads, rivetheads and cybergoths alike will enjoy.
Originally written for www.rockbeast.co.uk
As the title suggests, Solar Soul is the definitive Samael album. There isn’t much revolution in their sound as past records have suggested, but there is definitely evolution. Starting with 1996’s album Passage, Samael have been dropping their Black Metal fan base left and right. From the change of direction in the lyrical writing, to the “eased up” vocals of Vorph on 1999’s Eternal, the wider integration of keyboards and finally the introduction of “world” music on 2004’s Reign Of Light, Solar Soul is the pinnacle of that evolution. This album takes all the ingredients of all previous Samael releases and combines them into one flowing unit.
The biggest difference on this album compared to its immediate predecessor is that both the guitars and the vocals have had the intensity cranked up. The funny thing is this change is hardly noticeable on the first few tracks. The first two songs on the album, “Solar Soul” and “Promised Land” sound like slightly amped up left-overs from Reign of Light. They are both very positive and upbeat songs. They remind me of “Reign of Light” and “Inch Allah” respectively. However, by the time the 5th song, “On The Rise” rolls around the listener will begin to realize the actual power behind this record. “On The Rise” starts off with a furious blast beast and tremolo picked guitar riff that then descends into a wall of spacey synths and some of the most snarling vocal lines ever heard from Vorph. When I first heard this song, the chorus reminded me heavily of “Passage.” This momentum is kept on point for the rest of the album. Song’s like “Alliance” and “Ave!” remind heavily of “Ceremony Of Opposites” as well, with their start-stop guitar riffs and choir-string pounding. “Architect” is bit of a different tune for the band. It sounds like Vorph has taken cues from his “Era One” project and injected some of that experimentation into this song, especially with the cleanly sung chorus.
The other interesting aspect of this album is that for the first time since “Ceremony Of Opposites” the band is using live percussion. The drum machine is still there, but it is now layered with live drums. This makes a huge difference as now Samael has a much more “live” feeling than on the previous few releases. Furious cymbal crashing and double bass drumming serve to highlight the new found intensity on this release.
I’ve read in a few interviews with Vorph and Xy that this album was not really meant to push the band in any new directions. The function of this album was intended to serve as a “Samael” album in the sense that it sounds like the band has distilled the best parts of all previous albums, and injected them into one release. The positive energy from the previous two albums and the vocal and guitar intensity not seen since “Passage” make this an album with undeniable power.
I had never really listened to much of Samael before hearing this album, I had heard a song online that I liked alright, and some read good reviews. So I went out and bought this album. Even after the first play through, I was already blown away by the music created. Samael creates a unique and fantastic blend of techno style industrial influences with heavy black-death riffs played through a perfect balance of keyboard and guitar.
There is not a weak track on this album, it is all quite up to snuff. All of the songs are great, and they are all different from each other. The songs have different structures, different introductions, and varying lyrical styles. But throughout the album, there is an interesting alternation between lead instruments, being keyboard or guitar, and sometimes they work together. The writing of those instruments is quite superior. The drumming on the album is nothing spectacular, but fits the tone very well. The vocals (with some quite profound lyrics) blend well with the music, and the voice is very good in that it is slightly grungy but easy to understand.
The magic of this album is that you can get lost in the music. There are sounds reminiscent of Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia era Dimmu Borgir, and some hints of Therion and Haggard; but Samael creates a sound purely of their own that pulls you in from the start, and keeps you captivated until the close. It is music you can feel and really get into. The album stunned me the first time I heard it and has kept me interested all the way through. I recommend that you go and purchase this album immediately
I must admit, I loved Reign of Light and even more, although I really enjoyed Ceremony of Opposites, I fully agree with their change of style. It's Samael at it's best, people.
Moving from Black Metal, anti religious lyrics and brutal play style to adding keyboards (see Ceremony of Opposites - the turning point of their career, and not Passage, in my humble opinion), Samael evolved into a deeply electronic complex musical group. The lyrics changed, more melody was added, but Vorphalack's growls are still there, and that, my friends, is what embeds the transcendence between good and evil, in their music. Combining deep black metal / death metal growls with clean vocals, Vorph's voice is greater than ever, and at the same time, unique, without question. Hands down! I'd like to see a more original approach on brutal vocals than Vorph's.
Lyrics are full of life, uplifting and positive, and the adding of the female voice on "Suspended Time" blends in perfectly with the speed and rhythm of the song. The sound of the album is somewhat middle-eastern, you could say (check "Slavocracy" and "On the Rise").
Xytraguptor's heavy keyboards and professional programming pose a great influence and touch to the songs, being better than ever, better than on Reign of Light. Vorph's and Makro's guitars are outstanding, simply mind blowing riffs all the way from the first track through the final track of the album. So many good riffs, and so diverse that you can't really fit them under one cathegory. Melody and brutality perfectly blent in together. Mas's bass is there, and does a great job fitting in through all that heavy programming and twin guitar onslaught.
To draw a line here on this short review, Solar Soul is the apex of Samael's career. It's almost as if the band took all of their previous albums and combined it into one, but this time without the flaws, thus making it as great as it is. I personally recommend the album to every metal fan, be it Samael's fan or not.
An epitome of hard work and professionalism from Vorph, Xy, Mas and Makro.
Was it worth the wait ? Is it special ? Is it unique ?
Until Solar Soul, I swore by Passage as Samael's greatest album. Solar Soul is perfect in every aspect. There's no questioning it; this is surely the band's pinnacle. They have combined everything they've ever done throughout their discography into this one album. I can hear Ceremony of Opposites, Passage (especially Passage), Eternal, Reign of Light, even a little Worship Him at times (bar the lyrical themes), and it's all the best from each and every album.
Vorph's lyrics are as amazing as ever. Even when they were in their "stereotypical black metal" lyrical phase, I thought he went about things in a creative way when writing them. I now consider him among the best, perhaps the best lyricist in the world. He could likely turn a story about pie into the most introspective thing anyone has ever heard. His vocals are as unique as ever; an actual, a constant mix between death growls and clean singing. I've never heard anything like it. He pulls this off perfectly every single track on Solar Soul, even harmonizing with a female vocalist during "Suspended Time".
His and Makro's guitar skills have not diminished either. Solar Soul is definitely their most guitar-based album since Passage, and I consider this to be a very good thing. Reign of Light had a lack of guitars, I felt, and Solar Soul really doesn't. The riffs are amazing; they sound dark but light at the same time. Samael's riffs on this album are not able to be described by genre, for they are too diverse. They're heavy, they're melodic, they're beautiful, and most importantly, they're there (unlike on Reign of Light). Valkyries' New Ride probably showcases their amazing guitar skills best.
Masmiseim's bass playing is as great as ever as well. It's very powerful and evident throughout the album, but it still seems to blend in with Xy's amazing programming/keyboard and Vorph/Makro's guitars perfeclty. Solar Soul is an extremely melodic album, and while everything is extremely powerful, it all blends together as well. I have never seen a band do this before, and I doubt I ever will.
More on the keyboarding. It is probably the most melodic instrument on the entire album (bar the wide array of synths, but I don't count them), and it is completely amazing. It has an east Asian feel to it, like Reign of Light, but it's more perfected this time like everything else. It's seriously like they took the rest of their discography, combined it all, made it absolutely goddamned perfect, and released it to us unexpecting fans, still hungry for more after the somewhat lacking Reign of Light.
Every track is amazing and every track becomes more amazing every time you listen to it. At first, it sounds like crap. Don't be discouraged, however, for if you listen to it a few times I'm sure you'll have the same feeling as me.
It’s amazing when you can see the Samael’s from black metal with satanic lyrics to the newest albums which glorify life and are full of positive energy. It’s a way from dark to light. And more amazing thing is that Samael play every style just perfectly. The band is still progressing and discovering new conceptions of their music.
Reign of Light was the beginning of the new era of Samael and Solar Soul continues that era. The conception is similar to RoL, but style is rather different. The album sounds like a mix of Eternal and RoL with many new elements. There are still oriental influences, especially in Quasar Waves, there’s a lot of electronic of course, but Solar Soul is heavier album than two previous. It can be heard in Vorph’s vocals which are as harsh as on Passage, but more fitted to the actual music style of course. There’s also female vocal on Suspended Time. Surprising, but sounds nice.
At the first listening, title track kicks strongly and remains in memory. Although it’s a great song it isn’t the best one on this album. Listen to Valkyries’ New Ride – speed and powerful, one of the best songs Samael recorded ever. Also Suspended Time and Slavocracy are amazing ones. Remember Door of Celestial Peace? Like it? If yes, you have to listen Western Ground – similar style. The opposition to speed Valkyries’ New Ride are slow and heavy Alliance and AVE!, very good too.
Unfortunately this album has weak points, too. Promised Land has interesting beginning, but later is worse, I mean especially chorus and keys during almost all track. Also On the Rise doesn’t give much pleasure of listening. But it is a price of experiments – not everything has to be great for everyone.
Solar Soul is definitely more mature album than Reign of Light. The music is ‘warmer’ and liver, not as cold and ascetic as on previous one. Xy has done a lot of very good work composing the music. Experience mixed with progression gave an amazing album, definitely one of the best from Samael and one of the best this year.
Samael have always been a surprising group when it comes to the musical directions they took. They arguably are the most diverse band on Earth, having covered a huge amount of musical styles (Black Metal, Industrial Metal and various subgenres of the two, Electronica and Classical). After the 5 year break after Eternal, Samael have entered a new period of creativity, as it appears. Now, 2 years after their last metal album (Reign Of Light), they return with Solar Soul.
While Solar Soul continues the optimistic lyrical approach to life and existence, the musical and vocal part changes... and it does so in the right direction: forward. This album is definitely better than Reign Of Light. While keeping in touch with various oriental influences, Samael are a lot more technical with their instrumentation. The album is filled with great choruses and interesting sounds. “Suspended Time” showcases a duet between Vorph and a female singer while “Slavocracy” introduces a great keyboard/percussion/guitar combination. The keyboards on “Promised Land” might be a bit annoying to some, but the song fits well between the title track and “Slavocracy”.
2007’s Solar Soul looks a lot like a Passage on steroids. Passage is a great album, many considering it Samael’s best. However, the fact is, that 11 years have passed and the two brothers constituting Samael (Vorph and Xy) have seen hundreds of gigs and thousands of rehearsal hours. So of course, their attempt to best their past has good odds. While Reign Of Light didn’t quite make it there, Solar Soul does.
At first listen, I wasn’t really impressed. The last 2 or 3 tracks and “Slavocracy” did hit me quite well, but at the second listen it was already love. So I would advise anybody to go get this disc and listen to it a few times and then you can come here and write a positive review about it, because I personally can’t find any reason why this disc would get a thumbs down from anybody. Samael is one of the extremely few bands that can’t even be accused of selling out (that’s a stupid way to judge the quality music anyway).