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A new direction? - 20%

Fenriswolf, July 31st, 2018

Secrets Of The Moon is a band with a relative changeable style, but always in the context of black metal so far. Especially, I absolutely prefer their first and last releases, while the releases from the mid-era (including “Stigmata”, “Exhibitions” and “Antithesis”) are not that interesting because of the dry, sober and highly polished sound. However, I’ve always looked forward for new releases and bought them without listening to any samples previously. I did so again for “Sun”, as the artwork suggested something like “Privilegivm” or “Seven Bells”. But the music was not that what I’ve expected.

On “Sun”, there can still be found some black metal elements such as blastbeats and tremolo picking on certain parts. The riffing can be described as (more or less) typically for SOTM as well, but not as much intense as on the previous releases. The guitars definitely lack grip. I mean to say that the melodies are simply trivial. And that’s really a pity. Furthermore, “Sun” has actually nothing to do with a black metal recording. The harsh screams are gone and were replaced by clean vocals, which isn’t necessarily bad for sure. My main point of criticism is the whole atmosphere. It has a sort of a distant dark and negative feeling, but in a style that can be described as post rock or depressive rock. The feelings conveyed on this recording are sometimes even euphoric, especially caused by the swingy drumming and the already mentioned trivial riffing.

Maybe someone has already anticipated this “new” direction, because of the song “Shepherd” (the last song on “Privilegivm”, released six years before “Sun”) that is a sort of depressive rock song, too. However, “Sun” is definitely not an appropriate successor of this early “preview”. Anyway, there is nothing to say against the band’s decision to change the style so drastically, but why frontman sG can’t work off his (depressive or post) rock preferences with its solo project Crown only, while SOTM is maybe breaking out in another direction to be able to differentiate between both bands?

SUN - 90%

cabronmodificado, January 28th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Lupus Lounge (Digibook)

It’s no secret that I have been a huge fan of latter-day Secrets of the Moon since their last album in 2012, Seven Bells. I even wrote a favorable review of 2014’s Gehenna, the debut EP from frontman sG’s side-project, Crone. As I said in that article, Secrets of the Moon is a band with a distinctive tone and style; from the first riff, it’s obvious who is playing. Even with a brand new rhythm section, Secrets of the Moon retain their signature sound, even while they bring on the next iteration of their distinctively clean and melodic take on black metal.

On Sun, the band has left blast-beats and screaming behind almost completely in favour of basic rock-style drumming and sG’s distinctive clean singing voice. When blast-beats do appear, they are traditional and not uptempo. With the exception of the album’s opener, ‘No More Colours’, and the epic finisher, ‘Mark of Cain’, the blasts seem like an element the band still felt obligated to include here and there rather than a tool used to raise the intensity of the songs.

With concerns of speed and nastiness mostly far behind, the band is now wearing their influences on their sleeves in a way that they could only hint at in the past. ‘Dirty Black’ checks early-‘70s progressive rock off the list, like King Crimson on a bad trip. The chorus of backing vocals and a layer of strummed acoustic guitars—which are difficult to hear but are present throughout the album—create a sort of counterpoint that is almost unheard-of in extreme metal songs – and I am by no means sure that Secrets of the Moon fall under this umbrella anymore. On any other day, with any other band, that would be a stinging indictment, but for Secrets of the Moon, it feels like an inevitable next step in the direction they’ve been leaning towards for years.

More than one moment on the album sounds like heavy gothic rock, almost using Fields of the Nephilim or the Mission as a starting point. I could swear the final riffs of ‘I Took the Sky Away’ and ‘Man Behind the Sun’ were cropped straight from God’s Own Medicine, and the latter is a hook so good it should have been flogged to death for three minutes or more instead of a mere forty-five seconds. Clean electric guitar dominates during these passages, while the distorted guitars provide reverb and delay-soaked backing without any straightforward heavy riffing at all.

While Secrets of the Moon is still indulging in their love for more meandering, jamming intros and outros, Sun also sees an increase in epic, anthemic choruses and hooks that just will not let go, such as in the halfway point of ‘Hole’. That song is a catchy, fist-pumping banger that could have almost been a Type O Negative jam if it had been sped up and crammed with guitar solos, while ‘I Took the Sky Away’ sounds like classic Katatonia: dark, mid-paced gothic metal with clean singing and simple but effective melodies and hooks.

One complaint I’ve heard leveled against Sun is that it should have been a Crone full-length, and then Secrets of the Moon could get on with the business of making harsher, biting black metal again. The similarities between contemporary Secrets of the Moon and Crone, of course, can’t be discounted. The vocals, riffs, leads, and even the dynamic changes throughout the songs are all fairly similar, but these elements have been present in the band’s music for years at this point. Sun simply has more than previous albums did. For those who don’t like the changes Secrets of the Moon have undergone recently: nobody’s taking Antithesis away from you. For everybody else: Sun doesn’t reach the transcendent heights of Privilegivm or Seven Bells (the latter especially was an instant, perfect classic album for me), but the latest evolution in the band’s sound is anything but a misstep. I’ll be spinning this platter for a long time to come.

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