No matter how often journalists, aging fans and various other fools tout the vital contributions of Swiss legacy artists Samael to black metal’s early history their decades long foray towards the realm of electro-industrial rock and EBM will seemingly always be what they’re known for. Even amidst a resurgence of releases that celebrate the cadence and guitar work of early Greek black metal, and the sublime Czech first wave, most overlook the true grit of Michel (Vorphalack) and Alexandre (Xytras) Locher‘s early work. I can only reiterate what has already been said hundreds of times: ‘Worship Him’ is perhaps one of the most stylistically original leaps from the caverns of late 80’s Bathory and the rhythmic genius of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost towards the second wave. Of course that isn’t to say ‘Worship Him’ has gone unnoticed, just that it’s sound has never been recreated or really outdone in the realm of black/doom metal.
Birthed alongside fellow townies and compatriots Fourth Reich (later Alastis) each band formed barely able to play their instruments around 1987 as they echoed the rumbling, ragged first wave extremity and thrash-inspired grunt of groups like Rotting Christ and Christ Agony. Interestingly enough Samael formed not long after the passing of the Locher‘s father, dark times and sour inspiration to be sure. A couple of messy demos later ‘Medieval Prophecy’ (1988) would both illustrate clear black metal intent beyond imagery as well as a clear influence coming from Hellhammer thanks to a cover. It is pure and cretinous black metal played on seemingly out of tune guitars with a barely formed sense of timing, not far from what Mayhem were coming up with in their infancy. Their From Dark to Black (1989) demo would show two developing sides of Samael, on one hand they were still fiddling with Venom style rockers (“Morbid Metal”) and on the other hand they were toying with the line between black metal and doom metal (“Knowledge of the Ancient Kingdom”) that would inform the style of their first album ‘Worship Him’.
This marks two great moments in history as the culmination of four years of work gave us Samael‘s immaculate, timeless debut but also the first release from French record label Osmose Productions. Why was the album such a cretinous blindside at the time? If you go search through their late 80’s demo material there is little indication that this level of musicianship and composition were within the trio’s capability. ‘Worship Him’ is a rasping beast of doom staggered by black metal’s vile corruption, it just sounds bad ass. Some of this is thanks to composer/musician/producer Claude Launder, who captured clear and clean performances without any mind paid to the sound of other black metal albums.
‘Worship Him’ was essentially all of the material they’d written up to that point re-worked and juiced up with a sound closer to something you’d have heard on Noise Records at the time. Closer in tone to a thrash album like ‘Extreme Aggression’ and delivering staccato death/thrash preened black metal. Samael somehow came out of the recording process sounding highly professional, atmospheric beyond any potential peers, and all without losing sight of their intended sound. From the instantly memorable drooping groove of the title track, the funereal gloom of “Morbid Metal”, and the psychedelic rasping stomp of “Into the Pentagram” at no point do Samael run out of steam. In hindsight the ‘variety’ on offer is due to a jumble of old and new ideas all making it onto the record at once. Much like Hellwitch‘s debut, ‘Worship Him’ still works as a full listen despite the clash of old and new guards.
The main reason I fawn over early Samael comes from a time when I ordered CDs and tapes from mail-order catalogs and magazine advertisements based on album artwork and overblown descriptions. It was a time when ‘zine writers were more concerned with creating a personal dialogue and had actual personality rather than just blandly selling every record they heard so they could get more free stuff. But no need to rant because I bought Samael‘s second album ‘Blood Ritual’ (1992) and Rotting Christ‘s third album, I believe through Century Media distro, in the late 90’s and these were vital additions to the few black metal albums I could warm up to as a teenager. ‘Worship Him’ would come later for me personally, and the experience is top-heavy to be sure, but once it hit… it really hit. Without fail ‘Worship Him’ is an album missing from even the most respectable black metal collection and I can only offer yet another voice championing it’s historical importance, glorious unholiness, and heaviness.
|Released||April 1, 1991|
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He is the hangman’s rope. 4.0/5.0
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