Review by UnhinderedbyTalent for Samael - Blood Ritual (1992) Review by UnhinderedbyTalent for Samael - Blood Ritual (1992)

UnhinderedbyTalent UnhinderedbyTalent / April 01, 2024 / 0

When asked in a 2019 interview about Fenriz describing Worship Him as “the first Norwegian black metal album”, Vorphalack from Samael replied, “We were not exactly satisfied with the sound of the album, we wanted to have something fatter and heavier. We actually reached what we were looking for when we released Blood Ritual but yeah that album sounds different.” It is hard to disagree with Vorphalack, Blood Ritual is gifted (or cursed depending on your preference) with a much beefier production than anything that came before from the Swiss group. As much as I enjoy a raw black metal album from time to time, I think that sometimes a bit of clarity is needed to really let a band’s sound shine. Whilst I will not attest to be being all that familiar with Blood Ritual until this past week, whilst listening as a standalone bm record I found that instantly I could take away positives from the experience.

A slower, more measured take on black metal that takes reference from Celtic Frost clearly, Blood Ritual is accessible without sacrificing the mandatory underground vibe that one would expect from such a record. The dense gloom that permeates the album is a chilling yet welcoming cloak in which to shroud yourself as a listener. There are smatterings of latter day Satyricon in this album (bearing in mind we were in 1992 when this was released) and although the comparison is relevant, I would suggest that the Swiss’ effort is less clinical and sterile then say Diabolical Now era Satyricon.

The simpler approach reaps its rewards for me, allowing strong structures such as After the Sepulture to grow well over its four-and-a-half-minute duration. As such, Blood Ritual has a sense that Samael are using the space better to construct an album as opposed to charging blindly through at a more traditional bm pace. Not that there is any denial of such intensity here. Indeed, the title track is a solid bm romp that blends this more traditional pacing with the clearer production values nicely. However, I could not see tracks such as Macabre Operetta (or the less impressive With the Gleam of Torches) at over six minutes faring so well on a shorter and more rabid tempo-based release.

My two main criticisms are that the album is firstly too long (even the two interlude/intro tracks don’t necessitate such a lengthy track list) and lacks much in the way of variety overall. The latter criticism holds less weight given that this is also one of the key strengths of the album. I think this is probably the best evidence that the Celtic Frost and Bathory influences got worn perhaps too visibly on the band’s sleeves. That having been said there is a level of intelligent (albeit a few notches above basic) songwriting here that needs to be acknowledged. There is still something enchanting about the primitive riffing of Bestial Devotion, that whilst is never groundbreaking, it is still presented so honestly that it is hard to ignore. That is probably how I would sum up Blood Ritual altogether as well.

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