Samael - _Solar Soul_
(Nuclear Blast, 2007)
by: Jackie Smit (
If you so much as dipped a pinkie toe in the underground around the early to mid-Nineties, you'd have been hard-pressed not to get caught up in the hoopla surrounding Samael. The biggest thing to come out of Switzerland since cheese fondue and Celtic Frost, Samael made an indelible mark by leaving black metal with a fat lip on 1994's _Ceremony of Opposites_ -- a record which took the genre as its starting point and proceeded to thoroughly transcended its every banality with impeccable style. The next chapter in the Samael discography, _Passage_, left an even more pronounced dent in the global metallic conscience, though this time it was by virtue of a dauntless surge into new musical territory that gave them an unmistakably anomalous sound.Of course, we're not here to reminisce over the good old days; this isn't a review of _Christ Illusion_, after all. But given their legacy, one can't argue that Samael have cut themselves a fairly thick switch by claiming that their eighth and latest full-length is the greatest thing they've put their name to. The trouble with _Solar Soul_ isn't that the band have delivered a stinker; far from it in fact. The densely layered onslaught of "Slavocracy" and militant stomp of "Valkyries Ride" pack as hefty a punch as anything they've put out in the last few years. Where it all falls flat is that after a thrilling comeback in 2004's _Reign of Light_, Samael seem to have found themselves at a creative crossroads of sorts, unsure of what to do next and not confident enough to try anything new. The result is a capable, even entertaining opus, which more often than not is also hopelessly formulaic, lacking the longevity which typifies the finest hours in the band's back catalogue.
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