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Samael - "Reign of Light" (CD)

Samael - "Reign of Light" CD cover image

"Reign of Light" track listing:

1. Moongate (3:30)
2. Inch'Allah (3:30)
3. High Above (3:57)
4. Reign Of Light (3:50)
5. On Earth (4:03)
6. Telepath (3:35)
7. Oriental Dawn (4:24)
8. As The Sun (3:39)
9. Further (3:59)
10. Heliopolis (3:56)
11. Door Of Celestial Peace (4:05)

Reviewed by on April 27, 2008

"'Reign of Light' has managed to keep Samael's satanic themes evident, without resorting to religion bashing or teen angst-style raging."

Five long years passed between Samael's previous album "Eternal" and the current "Reign of Light." During that time, disaffected fans of the band's early albums who didn't like the introduction of electronic sounds called out loudly across reviews and web forums for a return to their underdeveloped black metal beginnings. Any fears that Samael might actually cave in to the mindless hordes demanding they retreat to their immature roots from the days of yore, when black metal was all about burning churches and whining about Christianity, turned out to be completely unfounded. Not only did Samael ignore these base requests, they continued to evolve their sound to an even higher level. "Reign of Light" has managed to keep Samael's satanic themes evident, without resorting to religion bashing or teen angst style raging. The lyrics are enriching and enlightening without being arcane or hard to decipher, focusing on what mankind as a whole and each individual person can achieve when they don't put limits or constraints on themselves.

Samael’s sound has progressed significantly since "Eternal," which seemed to take a step backwards in the production department with a more muddy and static laden sound. Each instrument on "Reign of Light" can be heard distinctly, and the vocals come across perfectly. Front man Vorph's style of vocals has changed quite a bit since the older albums. The “Passage” and “Exodus” era vocals were a near perfect low death-growl that could be partially understood without cracking open the lyric insert. The vocals on "Reign of Light" are even clearer, with only a slight reduction in aggressiveness. It's not quite as savage as it used to be, but it's still very much recognizable as extreme metal.

The first track starts out with a strange drum beat reminiscent of the bongos, with some eastern style guitar chords in the background hearkening back to the more experimental song "Jupiterian Vibe" from the "Passage" album. Vorph then belts out a piercing growl, letting everyone know they are still firmly in metal territory. "Reign of Light" has a much more heavy emphasis overall on electronica and techno-style sounds here than in previous releases, which meshes very well with Samael's particular breed of metal. The song "Telepath" is definitely the highlight of the album, and the CD even comes with a bonus music video and a remix for it. "Telepath" manages the near impossible by being simultaneously furiously aggressive and catchy. The track "As the Sun" is a close runner up to "Telepath" with its groove oriented beat that conjures images of the age old occult archetype of dancing around the bonfire, but updated to a modern time with glow sticks and strobe lights.

"Reign of Light" is a triumph for black metal, as it shows that metal bands can effectively evolve in new directions and still stay true to their core ideals. In a genre characterized by stagnation and repetition, Samael is a serious breath of fresh air.

Highs: Simultaneously extreme and groovy

Lows: Not as aggressive as previous Samael releases

Bottom line: If you dig electronica in your metal or are willing to try something just a little different, then you need to own this album.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Reviewed by on August 28, 2006

"It's quite simple: if you liked 1999's 'Eternal,' you'll probably enjoy its successor 'Reign of Light.' "

When it comes to bands dramatically morphing their sound, Switzerland's Samael often come across as a record-breaking entity. From 80's thrash-influenced satanic black metal, atmospheric death and ambient synth experiments to a more futuristic and less radio-friendly version of Rammstein, these guys have done it all.

Enter their new album "Reign of Light." It's quite simple: if you liked 1999's "Eternal", you'll probably enjoy its successor just as much. For a five-year hiatus between the two releases, surprisingly little has changed. On "Reign of Light," all of the key elements are still there: spacy moods, lots of keyboards and "oooo aaaa" choirs, interesting rhythm patterns, heavily distorted guitars and Xy's curious drum programmings. Accompanying the music is Vorph's trademark heavily-accented grunting voice, quite reminiscent of Rammstein in delivery. The overall vibe here is quite positive and the band should be given credit for writing surprisingly up-beat lyrics - a rare feature in metal.

Many will point out that such elements don't reflect the actual name of the band - a direct etymology for "the Venom of God". But not to worry. With past song titles such as "Flagellation" and "Into the Pentagram," Samael won't be invited to the Vatican anytime soon.

Back to the album. Opener "Moongate" is a nice tune with its background sitar and massive sing-a-long chorus. "Inch' Allah" is also good and very worthy of Samael. The guitars are somewhat heavier than on "Eternal" - always a good aspect in my books. "As the Sun," "Reign of Light" and "Oriental Dawn" are excellent songs, complete with singer Vorph attempting to blend words together and deliver them as fast as humanly possible. His voice requires some time to get used to, but it does fit nicely with the music (especially on the fast-paced title track).

But not all is rosy with this album. Some tunes are simply way too sub-par for a band of this caliber and there seems to be an ominous case of "studio fatigue" in regard to some of the tracks. Moreover, songs like "High Above," "Telepath" and "Heliopolis" aren't exactly pinnacles of a five-year long creative process.

All in all, "Reign of Light" is a good album, but not devoid of its flaws. It isn't nearly as impressive as "Eternal" and I feel that with a five-year gap between the albums, they could have produced something more than simply "Eternal, Part II."

In all fairness though, Samael are masters at their craft and for anyone looking for a slightly different and original type of metal, "Reign of Light" will be a worthy addition to their collection.

Highs: "As the Sun," "Oriental Dawn," and the overall positive vibe.

Lows: Nothing really groundbreaking for the band.

Bottom line: Interesting and original metal.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)