OK, I have a secret to tell you right up front. I haven’t listened to Samael with any regularity since the late 1990s when I first started getting into black metal. I had a love affair with Ceremony of Opposites and was actually a bit disappointed when someone played me Passage. However, over the years Passage is the one that I have come back more frequently to, despite (or because of) its industrial bent. I wasn’t a huge fan of Above when it was released, though I must have just been cranky because it’s a fucking killer record, but I’ve always been waiting for the follow-up to Passage that never came. And I gather that I am not alone in feeling that way.
Hey, apparently Samael has been listening, or the guys have gone through some sort of transformation that has brought them back to point B (I guess point A would have been Ceremony of Opposites, which Above brought them back to). Because Lux Mundi is very much like Passage in its mid-paced, groovy indstroblack approach. Music like this, laden with keyboards, electronica and that sort of waltzy rhythms that break through in places (notably “Antigod”) always make me think of stylized fetish clubs and evil bordellos. This music is simultaneously sultry, evil and oh-so-very addictive. It’s like it embodies deviance.
While I wasn’t expecting this at all, it was definitely a pleasant surprise. Clocking in at 48 minutes, the record doesn’t feel super long, but it’s loaded with memorable tracks, cool songs and nothing overstays its welcome. The aforementioned “Antigod,” which was released as an EP last year, is an awesome track as its successor “For a Thousand Years” which, while simplistic, has an almost neo-classical melodic feel on the chorus that is very welcome. There is a distinct dirgey feeling about this record that works well, walking the fine line between ‘too slow’ and ‘slow enough to give it some real weight,’ which can be a bit hard. This is where I’m most likely to get lost when listening to Lux Mundi, however, on tracks like “Mother Night” or “In Gold We Trust,” where the tendency to strip things down and take it a bit slow is maybe a tad much for me.
The production here deserves some mention as well. The mix was done by Russ Russell and it’s pretty fucking monstrous. What’s so good about this is the way that the weight of the orchestrations is felt but not overpowering. Instead, the low-end drives these tracks in a groove-oriented way, seething forth from the speakers to pummel you into submission. There is, as one would expect, a very tinny, machine-like sound on this record, which is reminiscent of The Kovenant or even Fear Factory, but the balance with the orchestrations takes the edge off what would otherwise be a repellant for me.
This is not like Above or Ceremony of Opposites, but I get the feeling that people are going to be pretty pleased with this record as a whole. As I’ve stated, the tracks are strong and the music is groovy. And while the band has, indeed, abandoned black metal (again), their industroblack approach is very convincing, very enjoyable and I have a hard time imagining anyone criticizing this record for anything other than “Above was better!” Which may or may not be true. Only time will tell.