S A M A E L awoke when brothers Vorphalack and Xytraguptor turned their gears in a bunker on the 14th of July 1988. While practicing daily during that summer, the duet had one thing in mind: conquer the world.
The first small step toward that goal was the recording of their self-financed EP Medieval Prophecy in October ’88. The following year they wrote more songs and played shows in Germany, France, Switzerland and Poland, before taking the decisive step to record an album. On their way to rehearsal on the 12th of December 1989, the brothers stopped by bassist Masmiseîm’s place to talk him into joining S A M A E L . He accepted on the spot but remained with his former band Alastis for a few months.
The trio booked a studio for March 1990, and by April 1991, debut album Worship Him became the first release on newly-formed French label Osmose Productions. With this incisive step, S A M A E L began its invasion of the worldwide underground. A crucial series of concerts culminated with two monumental shows in Moscow. The following year the band signed a multi-album deal with fast growing label Century Media. By autumn 1992, Xytraguptor, Masmiseîm and Vorphalack were in studio, working for the first time with producer Waldemar Sorychta. From that recording session emerged Blood Ritual, 11 tracks of occult dark metal. Following its release, the band set out on its first European tour with label mates Unleashed and Tiamat. Later shows included the band’s first appearance at German festivals Wacken Open Air and Popkomm.
His head boiling with new ideas, Xytras took over composing Samael’s music while Vorphalack focused on lyrics. As the new songs were taking shape, it became clear that keyboards were needed for the next album, leading the band to invite local goth Rodolph H. to come ride a few miles with them. Recorded and mixed in 10 days at Woodhouse studios in Hagen, Germany, Ceremony of Opposites crowned S A M A E L as rulers of the underground. The album took the band on three European tours and their first North American tour (where they opened for Cannibal Corpse). To keep the band on the road, S A M A E L recorded Rebellion in February 1995, an EP that included an Alice Cooper cover (“I Love the Dead”) and an instrumental track constructed entirely with programmed drums, the latter presaging the future of the band’s evolution.
For fourth album Passage, Waldemar Sorychta went to Switzerland for pre-production work and was surprised with all the changes that occurred in the band since the Ceremony album. Rodolph was no longer part of the team, Xy moved from the drums to the keyboards and programmed all drum parts on a machine. The band had also hired a second guitar player named Kaos. A few months later, in Woodhouse studio again but with more time to spend, the band recorded 15 new songs and new versions of two songs from Ceremony of Opposites. The bulk of the tracks were used on Passage, while six of them were saved for an EP – Exodus – to be released later on. The overwhelming reaction of journalists invited to the studio to listen to some of the new songs was a positive sign; Passage was no ordinary album. The band’s credibility and popularity skyrocketed after the album’s release. A first headlining tour all over Europe was followed by many festival appearances including Dynamo Open Air, Wacken Open Air and With Full Force.
After the phenomenal success of Passage, in order to stay relevant to their artistic ideals, the band had to further develop their views and enlarge the spectrum of their music. Their already unique sound would be enriched with rock elements and with experimentations flirting with jazz and electronica. Eternal was the result, a self-produced album recorded in the nearby Mountain Studio; the album was engineered and mixed by David Richards, more known for his work with Queen and David Bowie than for his association to metal. Xy and Vorph would go to London to master the album with Toni Cousin (veteran of various Peter Gabriel and Genesis projects), another name alien to
S A M A E L’s usual surroundings. Following the release of Eternal in August 1999, the band embarked on their first headlining tour of North America. The next year saw the band playing selected summer festivals including Artefacts Festival in Strasburg (France) where they shared the stage with Iron Maiden.
The title of Eternal proved appropriate as of 2001 when the band entered a period of stasis. Session guitarist Kaos, who had been with S A M A E L for five years, announced that he wanted to retire from music; Vorph and Xy worked on different side projects; Mas built his own recording studio. In that entire year, S A M A E L practically did not exist. In January 2002, eager to give Eternal a proper European tour, the brothers started to look for a new guitar player; one name came highly recommended and all it took was a phone call from Xy, and Makro – from doom metal act Sludge – became the fourth member the band so desperately needed.
Summer 2002 saw S A M A E L back on its feet and ready to kill, playing their first show at Summer Breeze Festival (Germany), a concert that was immortalized with the release of theBlack Trip DVD. At the beginning of 2003 the band toured Europe despite the fact that Vorph broke his ankle just before the tour commenced; he played all shows sitting on a chair, proving that nothing could stop the rejuvenated quartet in their undying quest to move forward. The appropriately named “Redemption Tour” then made its way through North America, with support coming from Strapping Young Lad and Cathedral.
By January 2004 S A M A E L completed working on their long-delayed next album. Xy wanted an external ear on the recording, and so called the dependable Sorychta, who drove to Switzerland to check out the new material and put his magic touch on the album. Recording was done in three different studios in Switzerland, and for the mix the band flew to Sweden to utilize the services of Stefan Glaumann. Reign of Light was the first album released on the band’s own imprint, Galactical Records; licenses were granted to Regain Records for Europe and Nuclear Blast for the US. The album got tremendous feedback from the international press and was named “album of the month” in a few European magazines, including Germany’s Metal Hammer. In Paris, the band was awarded Best Industrial Metal Album by Hard Rock magazine. Two singles were extracted from Reign of Light: “Telepath,” for which a video clip was shot, and “On Earth,” which also featured a cover of Depeche Mode’s “I Feel You.”
The seventh S A M A E L opus, Solar Soul, was released in June 2007 and followed a nearly identical pattern to Reign of Light: the creation, recording and mixing processes were done the same way at the same places with the same people. Musically and lyrically the album was an attempt at summarizing the spirit of S A M A E L. “Valkyries’ New Ride” was chosen as the first single (only available on download), and a video clip was shot for “Slavocracy,” where for the first time all members of the band were featured. Between their European and North American tour the band took a short break to put the final touches on Above, a side project that had been a long time in the making. The album was mixed in a few days during summer 2008, and when mastering was done it was decided it would be the new S A M A E L album. Above was released in February 2009 in Europe – March 7th in North America – and the band went back on the road for a marathon tour starting in the US, going twice around Europe and culminating with the band’s first-ever visit to South America, where they headlined the 2010 edition of Rock al Parque playing in front of 100,000 metal fans.
On November 19th 2010, Antigod was unleashed. Originally intended as a single, it eventually took the shape of an EP due to the amount of tracks; one them being the re-recording of “Into the Pentagram,” which first appeared on 1988’s Medieval Prophecy EP. The appearance of this refurbished old song effectively built a bridge over the band’s two decades of musical evolution, and their return album, Lux Mundi – released in Europe through Nuclear Blast in April 2011 and in North America through Season of Mist in July –shines brightly above it.