Secrets of the Moon - _Privilegivm_
(Prophecy Productions, 2009)
by: Colleen Burton (7 out of 10)
Secrets of the Moon raised the bar ever higher for themselves as their cold, blighted work steadily improved. _Carved in Stigmata Wounds_ upped the ante with stirring instrumentation and decent mixing that permitted Golden's voice to become audible before being succeeded by _Antithesis_, which poured forth sneeringly derisive mid-paced black metal, rubicund with the exertions of tremolo guitars and reverberating bass lines backing the enraged vocals, obscurely addressing Biblical lore. Time alone could reveal if that bar had been raised to an unsurpassable height. Needless to say, _Privilegivm_ sees the group playing vanguard, black-inspired metal at a speed that doom fans could easily stomach.

The disquieting patter of drums opens "Sulphur", verging with a poisonous guitar riff that accretes to a slow-paced exploration of wrath by the bleakly croaking sG, similar to that used by German peers Nagelfar. LSK places a lovely burden upon the procession, her bass the perfect foil to the high guitar notes as Thrawn thrives in resultant tracks like "Black Halo", advertising his drumming precision and pliancy. This track in particular allows Secrets of the Moon to exhibit their black metal vigour, however fans may endorse their mid-paced leanings.

The experimentation in _Privilegium_ is superb: conjoining blackened thrash shouts with droning female incantations and silvery violin strains. So many different tones and feelings are exuded during the course of a single song that these dark compositions really smack of Enslaved. The noxious and unyielding "Harvest" represents a mid-album culmination, discoursing about such themes as the serpent, the tree of life and God's abandonment of humanity. Certainly these topics have been examined to death, but I still love the opening chants: "I forgive myself that I have allowed myself to believe that God exists / I forgive myself that I have allowed myself to separate myself from earth". This antagonism is preserved during "For They Know Not" and "A Million Suns", reinforcing their anti-repetition ethos, which is also perceptible in the structures of individual songs. Plus, Secrets of the Moon prevent the album from being overly technical: the music can be blasted, the choruses can be chanted and it's not so progressive as to make trve black listeners turn away in confusion.

Yet as can be seen with the surprisingly clean composition of the closer, "Shepherd", there is so much going on in _Privilegivm_ that it's rather hard to slice and dice. It marks a reasonably serious departure from the black metal sensibilities of _Antithesis_, but still fails to hit upon the truly avantgarde nature of contemporaries like Dornenreich. While firmly unexampled, if you enjoy the odd time signatures of Nocte Obducta, the unusual ambience of Arckanum, the ruminative atmosphere of Code and the unorthodox vocal experimentation of Solefald, then you've just hit upon a great album recommendation for yourself.


(article published 7/3/2010)

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