SAMAEL – Reign Of Light

Label: Regain Records
Release: October 11th  2004
By: Jim
Points: 9,5
Time: 42:28
Style: Avant-garde Industrial Techno-metal
URL: Samael

Since their inception in 1990, SAMAEL have always been unique in the world of extreme music. Worship Him and its follow-up Blood Ritual combined equal measures of doom and black metal to produce music that chilled the very soul of the listener. Then in 1994, Ceremony Of Opposites saw the band’s sound move in a new direction. The songwriting of composer Xytras evolved to include synthesised instruments and more varied rhythm patterns to further cement SAMAEL’s position as pioneers of underground music. These would be the first steps in a new direction that would lead to the groundbreaking Passage in 1996, and 1999’s follow-up Eternal. Combining guitar-driven songs with programmed drums and Vorph’s bleak vocals, these albums placed SAMAEL in a league of their own.

It’s been five years since Eternal was released, and in that time SAMAEL have had a lineup change, (Guitarist Makro replaced Kaos in 2002) and toured Europe and the US. They have also worked on side projects, (the still unreleased Era One), and started their own record label, allowing them to move on from longtime label Century Media. It’s been a long wait for SAMAEL fans but finally the eagerly-awaited new album Reign Of Light is here.

With Reign Of Light, SAMAEL continue the evolution that began with Ceremony Of Opposites back in 1994. Songs are still essentially guitar-driven, with the synth adding the texture that gives SAMAEL their trademark epic sound. These two elements seem to gel even more on Reign Of Light than on previous SAMAEL albums and while there’s a lot happening in many of the tracks, they never sound messy or unfocussed. This is due in equal parts to the compositional skill of Xytras, a predictably amazing production by Waldemar Sorychta and the final mixing of Stefan Glaumann (Rammstein).

From the sitar and tribal drums that open the album on Moongate, to the chanting female vocals on High Above, there is a subtle eastern feel to Reign Of Light that sets it apart from SAMAEL’s previous work. Xytra’s songwriting continues to progress – heavier tracks like Telepath, and Reign Of Light have all the power of a band like Rammstein but variations in rhythm, layers of synth, and imaginative guitar riffs add a sense of depth that elevate these songs beyond pure, cold industrial-metal and onto another plane entirely.

On past albums the lyrics of Vorph and the music of Xytras have often possessed a very spiritual feel and this holds true on Reign Of Light. Inch’Allah and the amazing On Earth are both uplifting, powerful songs musically and are coupled with Vorph’s thought-provoking lyrics that match their epic nature perfectly. The concept for On Earth is especially relevant in the modern world, where we seem to be sinking back into a mindset of war and domination. Not all of the songs on Reign Of Light are upbeat and powerful however: in the tradition of Moonskin we have Further, a slower, more reflective track that’s probably as close as SAMAEL will ever get to a ballad. The album closes with another excellent mid-paced track, Door Of Celestial Peace and as this song draws to a close, the listener is left to ponder the lyrics: “Have you ever wondered, what you really want?”…

Reign Of Light is nothing short of an amazing album, and I could not recommend it more highly to anyone with an open mind who wants to hear groundbreaking music. If anyone else had released a record this good I’d be blown away, but this is SAMAEL and excellence has become par for the course for this evolutionary band. After being fortunate enough to witness them at 2003’s With Full Force festival, I’d also recommend checking them out on their current tour of Europe. Five years is a long time, but it’s been time in which SAMAEL have evolved their sound and taken another step down a strange but beautiful musical path. I’m certainly looking forward to finding out where that path takes them next…