Home > Music > Samael – Passage (1996)

Samael – Passage (1996)

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One of the big themes of my own musical career has been fusing elements of electronic music with heavy metal, to the point that I have embraced many an album for doing the same. Less honorably, this means I don’t projectile vomit every time I hear “Destructos Vs. the Earth“, but let’s not dwell on that. You could easily convince people that PassageĀ was an influence on my own personal style just from its overall aesthetic. In fact, when I first listened to it, I was amazed by the similarities and particularly interested in applying some lessons from it to my own work.

Before you get any ideas, though, I should warn you that this was only a few months ago, so if you actually did rush to tell your friends without reading the rest of this review, you probably look very silly now.

Passage serves as a useful demonstration of Samael’s transition from their earliest black metal sound and whatever the heck it is they do these days (although Ceremony of Opposites is closer in style to Passage than you might realize). Most of the old grime has been wiped clean, although Vorph’s vox remain harsh and abrasive, and the guitar tone remains quite distorted. On the other hand, the drum machine and shiny (if cheap) synthesizers exert significant influence. I figure Samael wasn’t alone in this sort of experimentation, since even within the constraints of Invisible Blog I’ve managed to snapshot a few other bands evolving in a similar fashion. Why the “gothic metal” boom came in the mid-1990s is a story for another post, but Samael did well to grab onto it.

Ultimately, Passage is straight up industrial metal pop, but it’s at least as accomplished a work of synth rock as the last example of such I featured here. This is another case of an album benefiting enormously from being as melodramatic and pompous as possible within their chosen substyle. The songwriting’s dynamics allow this album to wax and wane as needed, which is especially important since the harsh guitarwork that ties everything together places limits on what Samael can reasonably sound like. Even the iffy keyboard sounds are used to great effect. It might be that they’re backed up by a fine production, but given that the mixwork here isn’t enormously dense, they do help add extra depth to relatively simplistic riffing. It’s the instrumental interplay that makes Samael pop in all senses of the word, and if that sounds like something you want in your life, you probably should get your hands on this album.

Highlights: “Jupiterian Vibe”, “Liquid Soul Dimension”, “Chosen Race”

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