Secrets of the Sky - _To Sail Black Waters_
(Kolony Records, 2013)
by: Dan Lake (9.5 out of 10)
The no-bullshit non-intro goes like this: _To Sail Black Waters_ is a near perfect record. Listen or screw off. Chronicles of Chaos is an eclectic metal site, and Secrets of the Sky deliver their share and more of high caliber eclectic metal.

The padded-out bullshit intro goes like this:

One of the most insidious of necessary evils is the "For Fans Of" sticker, also known as the RIYL (Recommended If You Like) tag. Attracting the right audience is hardly a sin, but every enthusiastic tendency should be tempered by restraint, lest jilted listeners turn glum disappointment into throes of disgust. What motivates my particular ire? I once encountered a sticker proclaiming an album (which will remain anonymous) should be enjoyed by fans of Neurosis, Mogwai and Jesu. Next thing I know, I'm in my car and popping the thing into the stereo, hoping I remembered to pay for it. Out poured nearly an hour of miserably bland, uninspired "post" metal. I haven't listened to it since. Whoever smugly typed up that RIYL list clearly failed to comprehend (or chose to ignore) a single significant point: Neurosis, Mogwai and Jesu are all apotheosis bands, reigning high atop their respective fields of influence as major innovators, undeniable game changers. Any band simply following their formulae is unlikely to appeal to fans of those bands, precisely because we expect that sense of progression and peerless artistry.

All this rambling is meant to suggest that Secrets of the Sky's _To Sail Black Waters_ could proudly bear a RIYL sticker adorned with names like Opeth, Nightbringer or Isis without ever misleading or alienating those fans. Secrets of the Sky never really sound like those bands, but therein lies their charm. The Californians share an adventurous musical spirit, integrity of expression and unchained honesty of execution that yields a truly progressive and thought-provoking album rather than the vapid mimicry of the well-trod frontiers of old. There's a conceptual maturity that hangs around these songs, lingering in the doomy paces, gnarled chords and organically grown quiet passages. Guitar tones are both meaty and magical, one lending atmospheric harmony to the hearty leads and melodies of the other. Triumphant clean vocals trade with death growls and Chance Garnette-like rasps, none of them more or less relevant or moving than the others. Epic compositional arcs blaze and fade over each of the album's four long songs. No section stumbles. No idea fails.

_To Sail Black Waters_ might be the 2013 record that upends your world and changes you for good. RIYL getting your skeptical ass handed to you.


(article published 2/3/2014)

5/6/2012 D Lake 4 Secrets of the Sky - Sunrise / Winter
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