DB HOF No. 118
The making of Samael’s “Worship Him”
label: Osmose Production
Like most early black metal acts, Switzerland’s Samael (pronounced saa-mail) had little to go on. Resources were limited, label interest nonexistent, and diehard fans of the band were relegated to sharing their darkest secrets by letter and parcel. Despite attempts by genre progenitors to self-extinguish the past—Celtic Frost opening Into the Pandemonium with a Wall of Voodoo cover—black metal’s flame continued to burn tenaciously under the tutelage of a new generation. A fledgling Members Only club had formed, unbeknownst to the older set, who were busy getting laid in big-city hotel rooms, writing eco-conscious lyrics and hiring bigwig producers. Though black metal’s youngest recruits were separated by country, language and continent, they were united under a single Satanic banner.
Samael were originally a two-piece. Guitarist and band leader Vorphalack (Michael Locher) and drummer Pat de Novaré de Navarre (Pat Charvet) played live and recorded two demos together in the late ’80s, the last of which was the coveted Macabre Operetta piece. Moored by all things evil, hateful and rebellious—for perspective, Locher and Charvet’s hometown of Sion had a population of 25,000 in 1990—Samael noisily blazed the Alps like no other. When Charvet exited the band, Locher’s younger brother Alexandre joined. Alexandre assumed the nom de guerre Xytraguptor (modeled after Hindu god Chitragupta) and modern-day Samael were, for all intents and purposes, formed. The brothers self-financed one EP and the group’s debut full-length, Worship Him.
Just as they had played onstage as a duo, so too did Vorphalack and Xytraguptor record Worship Him. With money borrowed from the bank (thanks to mom), they ventured off to Taurus Studio in neighboring Geneva. There, they put down classics like “Sleep of Death,” the vicious “Morbid Metal,” “The Black Face,” “Into the Pentagram” and the album’s title track. Blatantly simple by design, Samael’s saturnine oeuvre was nonetheless ferocious. Vorphalack’s guitar growled beastily, his vocals unbearably grim throughout, while Xytraguptor played horrifically slow beats, the likes of which haven’t been heard since.
But even so, Samael—as direct descendants of Celtic Frost, Bathory and Venom—weren’t like the others. One after the other, labels thumbed their noses at the band. Finally, an underground French distro noticed. After purloining bassist Christophe Mermod (a.k.a. Masmiseîm) from fellow townies Alastis, Samael waited a year before Osmose Productions saved enough cheese to fund not just Worship Him, but also the label proper. With the success of Worship Him, Osmose kicked off an unfuckwithable litany of (mostly black metal) signings.
Whereas the Scandinavian version of black metal was highly imitable by the late ’90s—not just by the Scandinavians either—Samael’s Worship Him was singular. Then and now. As such, it’s nearly as forgotten as the heart of darkness, the abyss of abysses. Well, no longer! With five oils anointed, pentagrams inverted and black candles eternally alight, the Hall welcomes Samael and Worship Him.
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