This has to be one of the best albums I have ever heard. This album has Samael shifting from the mid-paced black metal of their youth to a slightly more electronic and definitely more mature sound. While Ceremony of Opposites had a kind of digital-hard edge to the guitars, on Passage, the band has a totally organic sound, everything is how it should be and you could never imagine it without any of the layers.
The guitars are mixed right up front along with the keyboards to create a sound not heard on any other contemporary metal bands, black or otherwise. The intensity of the guitars, drum machine and keyboards, along with Vorphalack's vocals, are very well produced, and only rival Strapping Young Lad's City album in my book. The texture of the keyboards goes from melodic to ferocious, with subtle electronica hints here and there throughout the album, but not enough to draw any conclusions from.
The lyrics have shifted from the juvenile fascination with satanism in their early releases, to more of an open-ended exploration of society, religion and self. A song like Moonskin would have never been seen in the days of Blood Ritual or Ceremony of Opposites, but does not seem at all out of place on this album.
To those who enjoyed the earlier releases from this amazing band, this album will not disappoint, and in fact might be the highlight of the band's career. Those looking for a more electronica-based approach might be disappointed by the metal nature of this record, but shame on them for not supporting Samael from the beginning!
To me, Passage, along with the Exodus EP, are the most significant releases from this band, and some of the only to truly epitomize the black metal "keyboards+metal" sound to it's full extent. Songs like Shining Kingdom and Born Under Saturn are true classics that never grow old with time. You will never hear anything like this from any other band, or ironically enough, from Samael on any newer releases. A must have.