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Modernity is a somewhat cryptic concept in metal music, but most of the time when the term is associated with it there is an extremely posh production job and an underlying contradiction between the pristine balance of the instrumentation and the often morose lyrical content. A number of bands have foisted this concept of modernity in a variety of ways, some pointing to Dimmu Borgir as the most likely culprit in the symphonic realm, while Alcest gets a fair share of heat for their light as a feather take on the ambient/noise side of the coin. A number of bands could be labeled as pushing this concept into the traditional black metal paradigm, but among the more blatant examples of it is a German outfit by the name of Secrets Of The Moon that often times defies the very concept of its own professed genre.
For all its production quirks, "Antithesis" is an album that fits the sort of mystical, theistic character of Deathspell Omega from a lyrical standpoint, to the point of offering up its own counter-worship service in the form of an album. But the comparison between the two bands tends to terminate on that point, though there is also a tendency towards drawn out, jam-like passages inherent in the songwriting. The mood is sorrowful enough and the implicit melodic material in the guitars articulating a feeling of coldness and depression, but the crispness of the production tends to give the sound of the whole a heavily percussive character, to the point of these songs occasionally finding themselves in a sort of groove/death metal rut. This is particularly noticeable during the shorter intro and outro material in "Nowhere 11.18" and "Exit".
The results are not altogether unpleasant, as these songs do articulate a sense of purpose as they wind around differing sections, particularly during the droning dismalness of the quiet, clean guitar sections. The intro material of "Seraphim Is Dead" does a particularly excellent job of layering minimalist ideas so as to create a dense and almost misty atmosphere akin to a fog upon marshlands at the tail end of a desolate autumn. This is followed by a fairly orthodox foray of high speed drumming and streaming chords, expressing an obvious awareness of the impact that Darkthrone's "Under A Funeral Moon" continues to have on even the more progressive and adventurous of black metal bands. Every other song generally falls into some variation on this format, though "Seraphim Is Dead" also carries a rather impressive guitar solo section in its middle that is definitely a rarity for this take on the style.
While not the most attention grabbing and spellbinding of albums in this mold, this is something that can and probably has appealed to fans of longer, drawn out black metal songsters with a smattering of ambient influences such as Fen and Agalloch, though this is a little bit slick and polished compared to them. It showcases a level of accessibility and safeness in its auditory presentation that isn't quite matched by its songwriting style, which tends to detract a bit from the overall listening experience for older school fans of black metal, and will probably be a non-starter for trustees of the rawer reaches of the style. It's one of those middle of the road albums that a lot of people would like upon hearing it, but might not talk about to any great extent during a discussion on the sub-genre.
I heard the track Cosmogenes online, and since i was mezmerized by their "serious" sound and command of wierd meters, i bought this disappointing album. the production is way too clean to be tolerated by any BM fan, the vocals are half-hearted as if the singer's mom is in the booth with him while he's recording, the terrible nu-metal Sepultura stomp beats abound, the riffs are so stark and half-written that they convey laziness more than any pretentious "minimalism," and the whole thing just sounds like a former black metal band that hung out with Tool long enough to think they could "make it" if they just retooled their sound for the hot topic set. i tried several times just to see if it was cool outside of my ultra-slim underground BM niche, but it still stunk.
the lyrics are refreshing though. very clever and Aleister Crowley inspired, which at least provides a wider range of obscure references than the well-mined territory of the Necronomicon, Satanic Bible, et cetera. in fact, the great dilemma of this band may be that their stellar packaging, artwork, and design in the CD booklet promise more than this band can deliver right now.
Secrets of the Moon inhabit that rare space that sets people's brains into the mode of thinking that to verbally describe the band, one must use comparisions of other band's styles projected down into a different trajectory to make someone understand what they sort of sound like, even if the person hadn't heard them before. I am no different, either, because i'm going to tell you right now that my immediate reaction to this album/band is to say that they are what would've happened if Celtic Frost were skewed down the path ov Black Metal, or that they're Gorgoroth with a more-controlled, less-frenzied atmosphere. And you would probably get the picture, if you knew the other two bands and a few things about metal in general. Ostensibly, they are a Black Metal band of sorts, definitely not Orthodox, but the atmosphere is certainly there, and their earlier albums were masterfully executed as well...
But this band, Secrets of the Moon, goes beyond that and delievers a solid stream of an album, such so that listening to it in fragments is a less satisfying experience indeed. The 'Frostisms are abundant, but not overstated, and they generally have super catchy (read: memorable) parts to their songs that stick out in your head, and beg another listen. Even chant-along-ish choruses like "You..... cruel..... king...." inspire great headbanging and fist-thrusting, even if you're just driving down the road, listening along.
They also stand apart from the usual BM aesthetic in that the recording of this album is superbly suited to their music, and well produced all the way around. By the time the album lands on the next to last track (but really the final, and most important statement) "Lucifer Speaks", you are ready to be pummelled in the most excruciating way possible. Yet SOTM make you wait, and drag the tempo slower, more grinding, as the lyrics invoke tyrannical darkness.
A fully complete metal effort that even makes staunch BM haters stand up with disbelieving approval and shout "See? THIS is what Black Metal should sound like!"