Despite being ostensibly a black metal band Secrets of the Moon dips into the gothic, the progressive, and beyond across this seven-song sojourn. The song that most closely resembles black metal is probably the opening “No More Colours” with its relentless, pummeling beats and howling at the moon vocals. It’s eerie but not hair-raising scary the way that some black metal is. Instead, it’s a head trip, cinematic and psychedelic, as subliminal sounds sweep across the spectrum of sound as guitars wail and gnash and gnash and wail over the course of over eight minutes.
True to form things change up on the second tune, “Dirty Black”, with its clean vocals and even soaring vocalizations that add to the heaviness as it seems like the band would take flight if only could. The dirge-y bassline and strummed guitar passages are the perfect dark weight needed to keep this song from lifting above the subterranean and losing its grounding in the underworld. The same may be said of “The Man Behind The Sun” which moves a tortured pace in its initial measures, coming off like the missing link between, say, Evergrey and Bauhaus.
“Hole”s ethereal darkness drags the listener into a terrain that would not be out of place in the fields of Agalloch or in the realm of a more accomplished Voivod from the earliest part of its life on the planet. It too is progressive in its sense of twists and turns in emotions and aesthetics, making the listener snap to attention almost without warning but always with good reason. Succeeded by the stomping, almost straight-forward rock ‘n’ roll introduction of “Here Lies the Sun”, “Hole” stands as a kind of turning point in the album, the moment when things seem to have gotten as dark as they might get.
But who are we kidding here? This is a black metal album and there’s always plenty of room for darkness, Jim. Witness the eerie “I Took the Sky Away” with its horror soundtrack opening, strings, and dire, doomed passages or the closing “Mark Of Cain”. The latter has the album’s most unusual and interesting guitar tones and rests as the perfect closing for an album that is immovable and permanent in its praise of all that is heavy.
Secrets Of the Moon isn’t known for jumping hastily from one record to another, which is why this counts as the sixth full-length since 2001 and maybe that’s as it should be. Some music should be digested slowly, taken in thoughtfully and be given a chance to breath its vintage into the listener’s soul. This isn’t a record that strikes you with its full brilliance until maybe the seventh or eighth deep listen by which time you’ll be hooked and incapable of turning back.