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I've seen these boys a couple of years back at some open air festival, Summerbreeze I think it was. Back then a friend told me about Secrets of the Moon and that they were a sort of fresh breeze in the newer, more progressive style black metal has become and that we should watch them whatever the cost. So I went and watched them play sometime in the afternoon on a hot day and it was awful. Nothing came to represent their music. There was no atmosphere, no musical construct that imposes you of makes your bones vibrate to the music, simply horrible petrified and stiff "epic" nonsense. Now that may have been the festival's fault in giving them such a shitty time to play, but the overall experience was incredibly dull and un-fresh.
After giving their newest release "Privilegivm" a chance and a decent hearing in the evening (when this should be listened to), my opinion has changed dramatically. Secrets of the Moon are not revolutionary in any way, but they still manage to do the job done and deliver authentic sounding atmospheric music with a hint of something new, something grief-less and dreamy, like the passages and links between the single parts of the song. While the overall song length is pretty long (8 - 10 minutes), the songs do not manage to sound all to dull and are filled with the manner of expression that the music should incorporate. The strange path this band chose to tread upon is only overpassed by its eerie nature and overall good processing of slow, minimalistic riffing to create a steady, yet existent oscillation in sound. The overall atmosphere is very muddy and tears through its own structure; like being caught in a spider's web, this album moves slowly, but steadily into a coven of epic poetry. The music reminds me of Greek tragedies, where the protagonist is in a hopeless situation, where there is no hope for catharsis or redemption. It just is a downward spiral into a very deep and dark hole. This is the overall experience this album presents you. The song structure is narrative, meaning there is a direction, a sort of plot and setting, rather than a cyclical bridge-chorus-verse pattern, with only some elements reoccurring passages, such as in "I Maldoror" with its lethal chorus. Some passages here remind me of tribal music, such as the eerie drumming and occasional chanting. At other parts, bands such as Satyricon come to mind, especially their newer work, or "Volcano". The song progression is similar, as are the vocals. They do not have that balls-out shriek, but rather a more subtle and tormented version of them.
"Harvest" is an example of one of those long songs, which builds itself up by getting a certain basic or elementary atmosphere going, after which the song departs from the still-fading emotion, to fill up the gaps with tempo changes and interesting tension-rising atmospheric parts. When this type of music came around in the early 90s, many people were very critical to this new approach, declaring these bands as too much "Pink Floyd"-oriented, which is of course complete bull. While Pink Floyd actually gave us this astronomical view of music, and set the foundation for focusing on the wideness of space, Secrets of the Moon remain attached to this idea or concept, entertaining in an artistic way, but of course not as profound as the opus magnum which is "The dark side of the moon". You could call this little baby "The dark secret of the moon", which would of course arouse a lot of attention and critique. Maybe one could call this the mentally unstable far-cousin of stargazing, esoteric and spiritual occultism, but who cares.
The overall production is great, very muddy, with a lot of atmosphere to be consumed. Although "Privilegivm" is a quite long album, surpassing the one-hour-limit, which separates an enjoyable album from a strenuous one. Only very few albums can be listened to, that are longer than, say, 50 minutes, without them being too dull and the latest Secrets of the Moon LP is certainly one of those experiences that one could conduct once in a while to see how the music feels like. This album is a good recommendation for those sleepless, cloud-free nights. Enjoy the silence.
(written for the metal archives and TMO on 30.01.2010)
Secrets of the Moon is considered one of Germany's elite black metal bands for a good reason: with each album, they stake out new ground, not content to repeat themselves or lie stagnant in an ever widening pool of misguided talent. Privilegivm is a compelling effort which strips black metal to its core and creates a crushing, primal force through its simple, atmospheric structure.
The title track is an atmospheric intro piece with some wisps of choral chanting amidst staggering feedback and broiling chords, which leads to the tribal "Sulphur", pummeling and chugging riffs which condense about snaking, eerie melodies. "Black Halo" creates a landscape of bleak guitars, slowly crawling towards some pitch black shore to lap at the shores of desperation. The tribal drumming returns with some chugging rhythms, and some sweet hooks as the song gathers momentum. "I Maldoror" has some grand rhythmic melodies which snake downwards in a spiral of depression, and "Harvest" is an epic track (13+ minutes) which is divided into three sections, covering a wide range of the band's primal aggression and adventure. "For They Know Not" is another epic, almost 10 minutes long, but one of the album's more captivating tracks. The albums ends with the raunchy "Queen of Rats", the dissonant guitar interlude "Descent" and the subtle "Sheperd".
Privilegivm has a top notch, clean production to it which puts it at odds with a lot of the band's peers, yet it really polishes the band's stripped down approach. This is yet another of those albums which one could consider a 're-interpretation' of genre, using simplistic death/thrash chugs which one might expect from a lesser band. Yet it's all to good effect. Privilegivum does feel dry in places, but if you've got the time to sit through its 65 minute length, works best as a whole. I wish I could shovel more praise upon it and place it on a pedestal as one of the best black metal releases of the year, but it's not at that level. Still, if you're in the mood for something outside the norm, yet still malevolent where it matters most, this is worth a listen.