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

Daniel Daniel / April 09, 2024 / 0

1991's "Worship Him" debut album was a relatively big record for Ben & I back in the early 1990's. I was already a fan of the First Wave of Black Metal when I first discovered Switzerland's Samael & their first full-length possessed some of the best traits from a number of those bands which saw me being heavily attracted to their fairly simple yet deeply atmospheric take on early black metal; their measured & doomy sense of control being in direct contrast to the death metal explosion that I was right up to my eyeballs in at the time. We'd pick up 1992's follow-up album "Blood Ritual" on CD & would give it a very similar treatment & with a fairly similar result from what I recall too. I didn't regard either record as being classics for the genre at the time but felt that they were essential early black metal release nonetheless. I always got the feeling that they sported a timeless quality & that element is still very much in effect with this week's revisit.

"Blood Ritual" isn't as different from "Worship Him" as some reviewers tend to make out. It certainly contains a cleaner, heavier production job that has obviously been inspired by felllow Swiss extreme metal legends Celtic Frost with the thick layers of rhythm guitar being a clear highlight of the record. The slow-to-mid paced tempos of "Worship Him" have only been dialed back a little further with the doomy vibe of the slower material off the debut having been accentuated here. If anything the riff structures are even less typical of the modern-day black metal sound too with thrash & doom metal tools being utilized within the context of a black metal atmosphere. Guitarist Vorphalack's grim Quorthon-inspired vocals always end to tie Samael to the black metal genre too, along with the darker feel & simpler riff structures. This is black metal at its most primitive, only with a production that goes very much against the traditional lo-fi grain that black metal was built on but one that definitely suits Samael's character traits. Celtic Frost are the clear source of inspiration here & (as with "Worship Him") I can't help but wonder as to just how much of an influence the early Samael releases had on Darkthrone's transition into black metal, particularly records like "Panzerfaust". The early works of Greece's Rotting Christ & Varathron also come to mind due to the similarities in style & tempo.

The tracklisting on "Blood Ritual" is very top-heavy with the vast majority of the stronger material residing on the A side. There's a short lull in the middle of the album with the faster title track (a re-recorded track from their 1988 "Macabre Operatta" demo tape) & short interlude "Since the Creation..." failing to hit the mark before things return to more enjoyable territories for the remainder of the record. The most notable inclusion is the incredible "After the Sepulture" which was clearly Samael's finest moment to the time & is still one of my all-time favourites amongst the earlier black metal acts. It represents Samael's first genuine classic & is probably the differentiator between where the two albums stand for me personally. Other highlights include "Poison Infiltration", "Bestial Devotion", the solid opener "Beyond the Nothingness" & the lengthy "Macabre Operatta" (another re-recording from the demo of the same name").

"Blood Ritual" is another high-quality effort from a black metal band that had been around a lot longer than most at the time & showed a clear understanding of the key elements that make the genre so great. There's not a lot between Samael's first two full-lengths but I tend to find "Blood Ritual" just edging out its older sibling overall, buoyed by the impact of the wonderful "After the Sepulture" while "Worship Him" lacked such a transcendent highlight track. 1994 would see Samael topping both records with their career-defining "Ceremony of Opposites" third album but "Blood Ritual" is probably still my second favourite Samael record of the ones I've heard & it should be essential listening for anyone wanting to gain a comprehensive understanding of where the black metal genre came from.

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