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German black metallers Secrets of the Moon deliver another great album of their trademark black interspersed with lots of doomy passages. Seven Bells whilst not a massive departure from their previous album is still highly enjoyable.
Secrets of the Moon, possibly my favourite black metal band from Germany along with Katharsis, have offered up a very decent follow-up to Privilegivm for their fifth outing 'Seven Bells'. 'Seven Bells' compared with the progression the band has made previously from release to release is in all honesty minimal, whereas a release such as 'Carved in Stigmata Wounds' to 'Antithesis' and then on to 'Privilegivm' there is a marked change. This is not to say that 'Seven Bells' is bad, I would say that the band are settling into their niche and feel they have now found their sound; only time will tell. A band that has become known for much evolution and distinction between releases will always be more likely to have aspersions cast on them than those bands who stick to the same formula every time (Darkthrone, Behexen, etc.) which can sometimes be a blessing and a curse; it's good for a band to feel confident in what they do and try to refine it, but by the same token although liking bands that change and start to follow a pattern I can grow tired of them, I know I will enjoy the music but if it's nigh on the same as their last release why bother? (Borknagar and Anaal Nathrakh spring to mind, both bands that I love but get tired of after 'Epic' and 'Eschaton' respectively). 'Seven Bells' however is still only the second release since SotM have started to refine their sound and as such, I have yet to get bored of their current incarnation.
The album is quite a long affair, clocking in at an hour with only 7 songs, the shortest song being 'Blood Into Wine' at 5:39. The songs often proceed at a fairly slow, very doom inspired pace and whilst there is not a lot of variation in the songs, one thing SotM know how to do very well is construct atmosphere through slow repetition; they are able to build songs up to an incredibly high degree at which point the next progression will ensue. The riffs on the album are very sparse, with lots of time between notes, the guitar playing is not particularly stellar technically but is utilised brilliantly in its minimalism. The drums on the album are very simplistic, similar to the guitars in allowing 'feeling' and atmosphere to come into the music.
Most of the songs on the album are enjoyable, some more so than others and a couple that compared to the rest seem like nothing more than filler ('Goathead' and 'Worship'). 'Serpent Messiah' is a nice healthy dose of 'black 'n' roll' that is straight out of the Satyricon handbook that is wholly satisfying. 'Nyx' and 'Three Beggars' are probably my runners-up, 'Nyx' is heavy in atmosphere and emotion (the video on YouTube is awesome), whilst 'Three Beggars' is a tremendous closer to the album, especially with the female vocals that make an appearance.
I have to give a special mention to the artwork, that as with all SotM releases it’s stupendous, nice, simple and highly striking. The lyrics on the album are mostly centered around Crowley's writing and influence, as will become immediately apparent on hearing the opener title track 'Seven Bells' as 'Seven, Seven, Seven' is chanted through the song.
This album whilst not perfect is a healthy dose of current black metal with a different edge compared to what is abound in the market at the moment. Anyone interested in Celtic Frost or Triptykon (Celtic Frost's new guise) will like this, it is of mention that Tom G. Warrior of Celtic Frost fame and V. Santura from epic German black metal band Dark Fortress assisted in producing the album, lots of comparisons can be found between the aforementioned bands and Secrets. 'Seven Bells' may not be the best release of this year or of their career but it is certainly up there and is worthy of a mention for albums that came out in 2012 in the history books.
(Originally written for baileysmmcreamy.blogspot.com)
Album number five from Germany's doom-laden black metallers Secrets of the Moon. This is my first experience of the band, and whilst I do feel the album is a little too much I'd certainly say I've enjoyed my listens and would certainly now class myself as a fan.
What struck me at first, and initially sold me on the band is their use of build. The band is very skilled at building up a song, and they show this brilliantly in the album's opening track. Church bells pave the way for a dirge of individually picked guitar notes, cascading over a subtle atmospheric backing, then lower chugs begin the increase of tension, guitar stabs shoot through and just when you think it's going to explode they take it slower again, re-establishing the build and then continuing the motion until around the three-minute mark when the track actually explodes. The whole album takes this approach, and whilst maybe an overindulgent explanation of one track, said explanation can be used in the context of the whole album.
Whilst some tracks do tend to rage ahead a little more the others, for the most part this is all quite similar, funeral march builds exploding into furious black metal outbursts at opportune moments, but mostly remaining a very tense listen. I'd say definitely has appeal to fans of some of the more evil doom bands, and of course fans of atmospheric black metal such as Lunar Aurora. Like I said earlier the style of the music and length makes this album feel a little longer than it actually is, and isn't something I would listen to regularly. Although for what it is, Seven Bells is undoubtedly good and I would certainly recommend it to fans of the band.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com
As the black light of knowledge emanates from the most arcane and formless of sources, it touches a select few, instantly establishing a living vessel of truth and wisdom in our tangible realm of existence. In order to reach those who identify with the darkness, a cryptic barrier must elude the weak-minded. Hence, the mysterious nature of the blackest of metal allows a deeper level of transmission to reach the ears prepared for the message. If ever darkness radiated from a source and shined upon the initiated, the creations of Secrets of the Moon contain that unique quality that can only be identified as light-bearing. It is a cleansing and transformative light that few artists can harness in their music. Truly this is upper-level black metal. Empty, angst-ridden vows or mystical odes to nature are nowhere to be found on this piece of spiritual art. With Seven Bells, the latest chapter in the ongoing history of one of black metal’s most impossible to categorize, a level of control and mastery co-exist in equal measures to portray a visceral obeisance to death and ascendance. Despite the seemingly simplistic nature of the compositions and the precision at which they are executed, that which is hidden beneath the surface preserves the endlessly enigmatic nature of such a confounding force.
Inaccessible to the self-appointed black metal elitist and far too sinister for the common ear, Seven Bells pushes an evolving sound into a realm of effective subtlety. It is a step into territory not yet fully explored: common practice with each SotM offering. Superbly clean production and incredibly tight riffing are not two phrases normally heard, let alone lauded, while describing possibly the most evil record of the year. Not to mention an overwhelming presence of musicality and composition exist in undeniable doses on this offering. Is there a surprise that at the helm of production is the king of understated power, Tom G. Warrior? Like the band itself, there is an impossible quality in this vicious, yet composed, expression, and it is the intangible nature that entices the seeker. Swathed in layers of spell-weaving clean guitar work exist simple-yet-effective riffs that hit with a merciless force. Juxtaposition such as this reveals that the simplicity is a conspired decision – clearly the ability is there, as any fan of their previous opus Carved in Stigmata wounds can attest to – and one is left to ponder why? There is a greater plan at work here, and the precision is a direct testament to this assertion. The often primitive nature at work in the riffage is in direct contrast to high-level occult darkness that perpetually dwells just out of arms reach. The eyes of a thousand demons are on the listener at all times, as if he is a practitioner of the works of darkness opening an unintended gateway. The voice of mastermind sG calls out to this unnameable horde in command and reverence – both aggressively visceral and, at times, other-worldly all together. It is an all too familiar ritual executed with total devotion and flawlessness, achieving the so desired outcome of the working.
A slow and torturous pace commands this album in a way that feels smothered by a cascade of black viscous tar. It is the resulting harvest of so many seeds planted on previous efforts: a progressively declining tempo and a crystal clarity have both incrementally edged their way towards the material on Seven Bells. Even fleeting moments of clean-voiced evocations fill the space left by the cruel snarl of sG, giving subtle glimpses of the beauty found in total darkness. It is challenging to the purist and refreshing to the rest of us who embrace positive evolution. Undeniably, there is a level of accessibility that scares off the filth-monger, desperately in search of the next Judas Iscariot clone. Clarity reveals a bare-bones approach to song writing, and preserves an intimate level of raw honesty. SotM can do this like no other: many have failed in this attempt. There is knowledge to be transmitted through this black metal medium, and it shall not be sullied by ill production decisions only for the sake of it. Yes, clarity exists, but total transparency is not to be found. The mystery is thick, and hidden in the recesses are kernels of intrigue and truth. The resulting emanation is sometimes too overwhelming to take in at once as there are endless intricacies found in every corner. Snippets of sampled sound occasionally encircle the listener – something was there, it is vaguely identifiable, but why is it there? More questions than answers: a mark of a successful piece of art.
Entrancement takes control as this rolling cascade of death and darkness lurches onward. Beyond the audible is a higher level of cerebral engagement that is just as important, if not more. Seven Bells is another vessel to proselytize faith in the end, and the inevitable blackness that will meet us all. Let the coiling black serpents from the abyss take hold and re-submerge you, as the listener, into another level of sinister devotion. Secrets of the Moon have created the album that was always just on the horizon, both musically and thematically. There is perfection in the art, and ultimately spiritual elevation is perceptible and achievable. One of the most confounding bands in black metal has always been ahead of the curve – outside of the circle of expectations but still very much in the lead. The Seven Bells toll! For they are the prophets, bringers of death!
Once again "Secrets of The Moon" deliver a full-length album for us to devour, and they do so with a somewhat experimental and original style for the black metal masses out in the world.
At first glance, the band's current style has evolved into something prominent and unique from a vast majority of BM bands. Unlike their earlier albums, they have attracted a darker and slower atmosphere which still express their aggressive style. What's also nice to see is that, unlike the mainstreamed Satanic lyrical themes BM tend to have, they've explored a different array of mythological and symbolical history (Nyx, for example) that to me expresses a whole different type of atmosphere and message.
Anyone that listened to and enjoyed their previous full-length album, "Priveligivm", will find the comfort that "Seven Bells" keeps the similar style as "Priveligivm". The guitars have a prominent melancholic, yet melodic style to them, the mid-pitch growls mixed with anguished, almost tormented clean vocals appear aggressive and evil, yet almost sorrowful. The drumming is relatively fast for the most parts, which adds a bit of "preparing" pace for the rest of the song duration (Seven Bells, Serpent Messiah).
The more negative parts is that the vocals are a bit tampered with during the post-editing, which may, to some, appear as a mainstream action that is only made to attract new listeners. But I personally find that these post-editing filters enhanced the feeling of the lyrical contents.
I, personally, find this album to be a step towards something that will distinguish SoTM between BM bands in general, and thus give this album 80% and surely do hope to see more works such as "Seven Bells" in the future.
Secrets of the Moon has always struck me as a rather interesting band, considered one of the artsier black metal exports among the German scene and yet strangely accessible. Their writing seems to hone in on simplistic, tried and trued structures albeit with the level of atmosphere dialed up to ten, and they work best when unleashing slower to mid-paced passages with a crushing resonance. Add to this the curious lack of a viable logo, and the strangely hypnotic covers they use for their albums, often centered around simple photos or objects (last time a black apple, this time an owl), and you've this unique and refreshing approach which seems to strip the black metal genre down to its components and then restructure itself from the primordial muck.
In the past, I've found that their albums marked a rather steady evolution, no two seeming quite alike in scope or tone, but to be honest Seven Bells is not a far hoot from its 2009 Privilegivm, which I have previously both reviewed and enjoyed. A mix of harsh and cleaner, textured vocals are cast out above the driving, churling grooves and mutes that represent the majority of the rhythm guitars, and the band with occasionally explode into a faster brand of polished black in the Scandinavian traditions of Sweden or Norway, as they do with the titular opening track. Add bluesy guitar leads, tolling bells (no surprise), tribal drumming with heavy toms, and you've got an easy intro to darker metal that doesn't seem nearly so volatile as many in the genre, whether that be black or doom. Yet to be honest, I didn't find Seven Bells to be all that interesting when I was outside its grasp. No longing to return under its measured, raptor wingspan. Tunes like "Goathead" and "Nyx" flow along with ominous, doomed grace, the latter even segueing into a tranquil ambient finale, but there are never any riffs that emerge and delight from the overall superstructure...
That said, I cannot fault Secrets for their consistency or pacing here. They know how to build a track up for 7 or even 11 minutes and keep you immersed in where it's going, even if you do not find most of the constituent note progressions all that fulfilling. Perhaps my favorite track on the album was "Worship", as I enjoyed how the tormented ritualistic vocals and ringing melodies just erupts into this hammering juggernaut and then subsides for a ghostlike melody, but it's not at all unpleasant to experience Seven Bells in its wholeness, and the chiming of its namesake does persist throughout the playlist in a conceptual procession of funereal shadows. A decent drift off into the eveningscape, well suited to fans of simpler, crushing works like Triptykon's debut Eparistera Daimones or Celtic Frost's Monotheist. Only change up the vocals, add some bells, and chop off a few of the grooves. Dense, but not impenetrable, nocturnal musings. The clean catharsis of the pendulum in swing.