Samael
Passage


4.5
superb

Review

by Trey Spencer STAFF
February 7th, 2008 | 29 replies


Release Date: 1996 | Tracklist

Review Summary: When you hear Samael talked about in a good way, and only hear their later material and don't understand the hype.... this album is where the hype justifiably came from.

Samael brought this on themselves. They caused the perception that they're a mediocre Industrial band by releasing the very bad Eternal and the much better (but still decidedly non-Metal) Reign Of Light, but that perception was not always the case. There was a time when they were seen as one of the premier second generation of Black Metal bands. People loved them for their dark and original sound that rested comfortably in a mid-paced and highly rhythmic space that no one else occupied. When they released the critically acclaimed album Ceremony of Opposites people began to think that Samael could do no wrong. On their next release, Passage the band decided to test that theory by going against the perceived norms of the genre, most notably by bringing in a drum machine, and they came out on top.

Passage caused a stir for a lot of reasons, but mostly due to them dropping live percussion and replacing it with programmed beats. The drummer wasn't removed from the band (in fact it was his idea to drop the drums); he just switched to programming those beats and playing keyboards (an element that was only used sparingly on previous albums). When news circulated about this switch people were doubtful that Samael could pull it off and still keep their integrity, but they did both. Passage retained the dark, sinister vibe of past albums, as well as the rhythmic nature of the songs, and added to it an abundance of keyboards, programmed beats (that were still Metal-influenced in execution at this point), and a more subtle version of their "evil" lyrics... and it worked. Within thirty seconds of the opening track, "Rain", people's fears were immediately alleviated.

"Rain" begins with a riff similar to past efforts, but it is much heavier and direct due to a better production and a sharper guitar tone. Soon after, choir sounding keyboards that are still more Black Metal then Industrial, and the drum machine comes in (both of which were brand new elements for the band). People weren’t too concerned with Samael adding keyboards as a lot of Black Metal bands did, but they were concerned that the drum machine would ruin the band. Within seconds of the first thundering double bass drums, that fear is easily put to rest. The album is actually given a much heavier vibe due to the deep, pounding nature of the beats, a vibe that would be hard to produce without a lot of studio magic if they had tried to use a live drummer. By the end of the first track it is obvious that a lot of thought and effort went in to every aspect of the beats, from the sound itself to the arrangements; they definitely were not lazy and did not allow the beats to become redundant and boring. Another thing that is clear by the end of the first song is that Vorph's growls somehow became more aggressive and deep then on past releases (this was before he started using Industrial effects on his voice that ultimately weaken their future albums).

A few subsequent songs such as "Angels Decay" and "Moonskin" lose a little bit of the dark heaviness that permeates through most of the album, but not due to an increased Industrial influence, but due to an increased Classical influence. These two songs are driven by classically inspired piano melodies that are contrasted nicely with Vorph's growls, heavy guitars and the rhythmic beats. It's an element that they had never really used before, and unfortunately they never really used again. Actually, on this album, the more Industrial influenced songs such as "Jupiterian Vibe" are some of the darkest, heaviest, and most sinister songs on the album. The riffs are monstrous, the vocals are some of the best Black Metal has ever offered, the keyboard and choir effects are haunting and the rhythmic nature of the pounding beats gives the songs an edge not usually found in the genre.

With the advantage of hindsight, this album can definitely be seen as the peak of a band that had a lot going for them before eventually venturing into territory that they just took too long to be proficient in. For anyone that has heard great things about this band only to feel totally lied to when listening to Eternal or Reign of Light, it was actually this album and their previous one that people were referring to. This is a flawless album that is heavy, dark, and also highly original due to its rhythmic take on Black Metal. Anyone who is into the genre or has only heard the two albums I've mentioned earlier owe it to themselves to give this one a try and see where all the fuss came from.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Willie
Moderator
February 7th 2008


16019 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Link Removed to make room for new musicThis Message Edited On 03.17.08

Digging: Skrew - Universal Immolation

Crysis
Staff Reviewer
February 7th 2008


16410 Comments


Nice review dude, I've heard great things about this band.

Digging: Blut Aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta III ? Saturnian Poetry

BallsToTheWall
February 7th 2008


44482 Comments


I wasn't too impressed with what i've heard from the new album, still trying to find that song with Vibeke though. However, this sound's more promising than the newer stuff. Sounds pretty similar to V:28 style.Great review again, will find some songs here.

Digging: Tove Lo - Queen of the Clouds

i am the robots
February 8th 2008


1027 Comments


this sounds like nu-black mettle lol

Willie
Moderator
February 8th 2008


16019 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ha h, I can see that being a fitting description now... but it came out in 1996 which was before Nu-Metal was really around and big. At the time it really was just Industrialized Black Metal (their older albums with a real drummer are similar in style except without so many keyboards).

FR33L0RD
February 8th 2008


1464 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Cool review, i interested by this album

BallsToTheWall
February 23rd 2008


44482 Comments


Just got this, i'll listen to this a bit later on.

Willie
Moderator
February 23rd 2008


16019 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Right on... I'll await your opinion ;)

BallsToTheWall
February 23rd 2008


44482 Comments


Going to have to give this a couple more spins in the future but i'm impressed with what i've heard other than the programmed drums. Angel's Decay is really solid in particular.

rattlehead42147
February 24th 2008


1345 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

This album is so awesome, drums or not. Ok I'll admit I've only listened once, but I didnt expect much since their black metal album Blood Ritual was good. I figured an idustrial direction would make them suck, but I was wrong.

Willie
Moderator
February 24th 2008


16019 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

ince their black metal album Blood Ritual was good. I figured an idustrial direction would make them suck, but I was wrong.
That's pretty much exactly what I wrote people were thinking when they heard the direction this album was taking... and they had the same conclusions after actually hearing it....
Give it a few spins Balls cause the programmed drums are still more metal then Industrial.

Ponton
Emeritus
June 17th 2010


5793 Comments


This didn't disappoint at all

If Trey happens to read this, any albums in the same vein that are worth looking into?

Willie
Moderator
June 17th 2010


16019 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Solar Soul is as close as you're going to get. It's a good album.

Hawks
November 22nd 2010


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Pretty good album. Didn't do too much for me though.

Willie
Moderator
November 22nd 2010


16019 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Bummer. If you can't get into this, then you shouldn't waste your time with their other ones.

Hawks
November 22nd 2010


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah that's what I was thinking too. Might just need some more listens, but I don't know.

Willie
Moderator
November 22nd 2010


16019 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The only one you might appreciate is Above, but only because it's a lot faster.

Hawks
November 22nd 2010


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

That may have been the problem with this one. I mean I like slower, atmospheric black metal, but this one never really picked up for me and so I didn't enjoy it as much.

Willie
Moderator
November 22nd 2010


16019 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Well, give Above a try and then give up because none of their other albums are nearly as fast paced ;)

Hawks
November 22nd 2010


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Haha I will do that probably sometime tomorrow. Listening to that new Impaled Nazarene album right now though. Shit is awesome.



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