Samael – Eternal - Gatefold -LP
Samael wouldn’t abandon the nineties without releasing yet another divisive effort, after their earlier experimentations on the albums Ceremony Of Opposites and Passage. Eternal is the last effort in this experimental triad that transformed the band into one of the most unique musical entities in the world, and it shows them stepping into their future style and sound. Like its two predecessors this album had to deal with a lot of criticism for being again very different, but I can understand how hard it must have been to make a follow-up to the monumental efforts released prior to it.
The band began incorporating keyboard ambiences in 1994 and by 1996 industrial beats were already crawling deep within their music. Eternal pushes the envelope even further and is easily the most electronic sounding album of the three, with a monstrous amount of layered samples and electronic beats showcasing this. The drums take a step back and no longer indulge in double bass beats or cool cymbal strucks, instead they just keep a steady beat most of the time. The music is heavily based on Xy’s synths and programming with little room being given for conventional instruments to breathe. They’re still there but serve as more of a back muscle to the electronic spine that this album has, although the guitars take the front stage on some occasions.
The album starts with a few strong songs that immediately strike your attention; the opener “Year Zero” and its great main riff laden by spacey keyboards, the breakbeat-style “Ailleurs” showcasing their appetite for electronic music or the astral ballad “Toghether” where Vorph uses his clean vocals with a low raspy tone much like on Passage’s “Moonskin”. There’s some good guitar work on both “The Cross” and “Supra Karma”, with the later showing a perfect balance between the conventional instruments and the electronics. But the real standout track here is without a doubt the amazing “Infra Galaxia”, starting very smoothly with a keyboard intro over a sampled beat until it explodes like a supernova and pushes you forward at light speed with Vorph’s soothing voice guiding you along. Some songs are a bit similar as they share the same type of chorus, but the individual arrangements presented by Xy makes them different enough to avoid confusion.
The album features some sort of weird space station hovering above the stars as cover art, a monolithic structure that seems like as a natural presence in the deep corners of space. Some might even see in it a reference to the movie “2001: A Space Odissey”. I find it to be extremely suiting considering the sensations that the music transpires, making you feel many times like you’re floating inside that structure and traveling through the galaxies. Sometimes you can imagine yourself being lost in the deep reaches of the universe while on other parts you can picture yourself beholding the natural wonders of the nebulas, and this is something that makes this album much more enjoyable than it ought to be.
In the end this album is another great piece of work and the last shred of experimentalism undergone by the band, as their future efforts would see them flirting with the material found on this triad of albums and rearranging it in different manners. I don’t mean to imply that this was the last good effort by the band or that they began to release the same album over and over again, but this era of the band paved the basics for their future songwriting style and Eternal was the final piece on an evolutionary path that started five years before.
If you were expecting another Passage I have to warn you that you won’t find it here as this album is again very different from the ones made before, and it may prove to be a bit difficult to digest and comprehend at first listen. You have to let it envelop you with all its textures and different layers until it sinks inside your skin. Do this and very soon you’ll be singing along all the catchy choruses. Eternal is a rather enjoyable album even though it isn’t as strong as its predecessors, showing the band during a very creative stage on their careers and paving the road for future efforts. My guess I that if you like this one you’ll probably enjoy their future discography, but if you find this by any means appalling then my advice is to keep yourself in their early years and avoid everything else. Eternal was a stepping stone in the band’s career so if you like Samael you owe it to yourself to give this a fair shot.