Secrets of the Moon – Seven Bells

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Review by Jason Guest

Germany’s Secrets of the Moon refuse to identify their music as simply black metal, and rightly so. Of course, their sound bears all the tropes of the genre: blast beats, tremolo-picked riffs and icy chords, and scowling BM vocals. Their reasons for brushing the genre tag aside are because of the complex structures of their songs, the technical riffs that are usually the stuff of prog metal, elaborate lead work, and extended passages that transcend the boundaries of BM. Where their last two releases – 2006’s Antithesis and 2009’s Privilegivm – somehow weren’t as accomplished as 2004’s Carved in Stigmata Wounds, Seven Bells is set to restore that balance.

The opening title track builds from a slow arpeggio accompanied by atmospheric guitar that swells into an aggressive, chugging build that launches into a dirge laden with dark melody and driving rhythms. The track is a hypnotic, slow, steady groove with a vocal delivery that’s still black but clearer meaning that the occult and satanic lyrical imagery is intensified. ‘Goathead’ opens with a blast of the fast and furious, the black metal rampage urging the track forward, an emerging half-time passage slows the track to a doom-tempo dirge that slowly develops with layers of distorted guitar chords being slowly added. The first two or so minutes of ‘Serpent Messiah’ are delivered with black metal ire in both pace and venom before a brief breakdown that gives way again to the wrath before a long dirge-filled coda that again adds layer upon layer of guitar lines and chords to create a cacophony of torturous discordant and disturbing sounds. ‘Blood into Wine’ is more doom and prog than black metal, shifting between the rabid and the highly developed melodies and dynamics. ‘Worship’ is epic in proportion, the song slowly building and developing as it proceeds, the band working to control its steady growth and allow the darkness to breathe deeply. And at around the twelve minute mark each, ‘Nyx’ and ‘The Three Beggars’ are both vast, utilising the strategies thus far displayed across the album to great effect. The solo organ in the last four minutes of ‘Nyx’ is stunning in its haunting simplicity, and the rapid, the rabid, and the progressive aspects of ‘The Three Beggars’ constitute a piece that is vast in its dynamic scope and its impact.

That Seven Bells is one hour long and consists of just seven songs (all opening with bell chimes, hence the title) that range from six and a half minutes to twelve and a half minutes in length and that each song is determinedly slow in its development may not appeal to most. But the duration is what gives each track its quality. The musicians allow themselves to explore the dark aesthetic and add subtle shades, the nuances emerging with repeated listens and making the ominous experience a richer and more powerful one. A slow burner, but a long and a good one.

7 out of 10

Track Listing:
Seven Bells
Goathead
Serpent Messiah
Blood into Wine
Worship
Nyx
The Three Beggars

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