Samael - Blood Ritual Review

Samael - Blood Ritual
Samael - Blood Ritual. Century Media Records

Until the mid ‘90s, Samael were a black metal group. That was before they explored their admiration for industrial music, which helped get them airplay on MTV and built up their notoriety. Even when they were labeled as black metal, Samael were not trying to be in the same category as bands like Mayhem and Darkthrone. The Swiss group was stepping outside genre boundaries early in their career, and 1992’s Blood Ritual is a noteworthy example of this.

Their debut album Worship Him had the vision down, but raw production hurt the album’s execution of that vision. Blood Ritual benefited from better production values and a more focused mindset. Worship Him had a few too many instrumentals that boggled down the last few songs of the album. This album remedies that by switching them with interludes with the effect of acting as moody intros to the next track.

If one was to go into Blood Ritual expecting a dissonant black metal affair, you would bound to be disappointed. Other than the vicious title track, Samael stick to a level tempo. This allows the guitars to have a multi-pronged attack that isn’t just built upon a glorious mess. There’s substance to every riff, and none of them get lost in the shuffle. Though the lead work is kept to a minimum, the riffs ultimately drive the songs.

Some of the material gets awfully close to doom territory as well.

“Macabre Operetta” spends half of its almost seven minutes at a crippling pace before the double bass drums kick in. A subtle bass outro puts the instrument in the spotlight, a rarity in black metal. “With the Gleam of the Torches” excites with a cinematic flair, as the sacrifice of a virgin features multiple characters and a flowing narrative.

An element to Blood Ritual that works better than it should is the keyboard work from drummer Xytras. He lends a classical touch to songs like “Since the Creation...” and “Total Consecration.” The latter song is the most unique cut on the album, as it’s a low-key symphonic track with spoken word passages that is long enough to avoid the interlude tag. Though the keyboards were used on Worship Him, it feels more heightened and atmospheric in their inclusion here.

To a black metal fan, Blood Ritual was Samael at their prime. Their industrial-heavy albums are dynamic, but just don’t resonate as well as their first three albums. Ceremony of Opposites, which would follow Blood Ritual, was where the real experimentation began and it became their calling card by the time Eternal came out in 1999. They would drop the Satanic lyrics by that point, replacing them with topics including self-discovery and space.

Blood Ritual may not be as revered or well-known as some of their later material, but it’s a snapshot of Samael in their primitive form. However, though the band hadn’t completely found their sound yet, their maturation as songwriters was evident. For being a black metal band that wasn’t satisfied with replicating what most of the scene was doing at the time, Blood Ritual gets the nod for this week’s Retro Recommendation.

“Beyond The Nothingness” Video

Samael - Blood Ritual Track Listing

1. "Epilogue"
2. "Beyond the Nothingness"
3. "Poison Infiltration"
4. "After the Sepulture"
5. "Macabre Operetta"
6. "Blood Ritual"
7. "Since the Creation..."
8. "With the Gleam of the Torches"
9. "Total Consecration"
10. "Bestial Devotion"
11. "...Until the Chaos"