Secrets Of The Moon
It seems it was inevitable, but German black metallers (and we really should say experimental black metallers at this point) Secrets Of The Moon have changed yet again. This time, it’s a transformation from the atmospheric occult metal of 2012’s Seven Bells (my personal favorite album) to the more accessible and more importantly, clean vocal filled (he sings) Sun. Now Phillipp Jonas isn’t necessarily the greatest clean vocalist you’ve ever heard, but he’s definitely been working very hard on these lines and you can tell that. The music here is very personal, as it’s connected deeply with his occult studies in Thelema and I’m quite aware of that myself, holding Crowley in high regards. I’ve actually learned a few things from Thelemists, which have helped me to understand Crowley’s writings a bit more and exactly what some of his work truly represents. As an occultist, I can tell you that most of this work is symbolic as far as the lyrics are concerned and it was just as symbolic with Seven Bells and Priviligium so that doesn’t surprise me. Symbols work better than words anyway, as one can assign meanings to them without letting the listener know exactly what they are. Those symbols can actually gain energy through performance of the material, which of course works better in a live setting, as these gentlemen are no doubt preparing to do.
In all honesty, I would rather consider Sun a dark metal record, quite similar to the latter work of Tiamat and the middle to current era work of Moonspell, who are also highly ritualistic acts that also dwell in occult mysticism. So perhaps this “dark occult sound” is just the sound of magick himself, though we know not as to what Crowley himself would have thought of it. In any case, the record seems to straddle between black metal and the kind of dark rock that will remind you of acts like Ancient VVisdom, Ghost, Audra, Black Tape For A Blue Girl or even The Cure at their darkest. Just don’t forget about my Tiamat and Moonspell similarities too, because that’s definitely what you are getting here. It’s not a blast-fest, there aren’t many harsh vocal elements to speak of and it most certainly doesn’t sound very much like black metal. As a matter of fact, when we move closer to the end of the record, we’ll begin to hear even more of this “gothic” influence. Germany is known for it’s goth scene though, especially having produced legends in the genre like Lord Of The Lost and Gothminister, so it doesn’t seem unlikely for Secrets Of The Moon to make this sort of My Dying Bride-esque gloomy, gothy stuff. It’s just not at all what I expected and it probably won’t be what you expected either. But Secrets Of The Moon have done literally all they could with their particular style of black metal and it was clearly time to move on. There was no topping Seven Bells and the last thing I wanted was regurgitation of that record. It was clearly time for the band to head into this new direction and regardless of whether or not you like or dislike this particular move, it simply had to be done in order to keep the band from stagnating.
That being said, the record certainly has its gems. “Man Behind The Sun” and “Hole” both seem to carry that Cure type of vibe, even though Jonas definitely channels Paradise Lost with the latter, especially during his shouts of “there is no hope” which you’ll be able to link automatially to the English legends. “Here Lies The Sun” is another track that I feel strongly stood out out, with an ominous level of pleasantry of which I’ll have to absorb about a hundred more times as I try to uncover it’s meaning, or rather; what it means to me. Though these guys definitely ended the record on heavy note with “Mark Of Cain” you’re getting a rather different approach than what you’ve been used to and it might hit deeper and on a more emotional level than past efforts. Once again, this is a very personal and very open-ended record for Jonas and the rest of the band, so it makes perfect sense that the material here isn’t the kind of show-off black metal that allows a band to display just how evil it can be. There are thousands of great melodies utilized here and I’m sure you’ll find yourself overwhelmed by all of them. It’s truly one of Secrets Of The Moon’s more spirited releases and I’m not sure if we’ll hear anything quite like it again, nor should we. It admittedly took a lot longer to come out than anticipated and will probably get foreshadowed by the fact that many media outlets have already done their “Best Of” lists, but that is by no means a reason for you to let it slip under the radar. Sure, it’s different. But it’s a truly magickal release and variety is indeed the spice of life. Definitely give it a thorough listen. (Eric May)