Saturday, December 22, 2012

Secrets of the Moon

Secrets of the Moon - Antithesis
Lupus Lounge, 2006
Genre: Black Metal

1. Nowhere (11:18)
2. Versus
3. Ordinance
4. Confessions
5. Metamorphoses
6. Ghost
7. Seraphim is Dead
8. Lucifer Speaks
9. Exit

I must admit that I am a fairly new follower of Secrets of the Moon, having basically gotten all their full length material this year in 2006, but I heard this one last.  It was an interesting development upon getting into this band, because the first material I acquired was “Strongholds of the Inviolables,” which I did not enjoy all that much.  I didn’t know they had any other albums at the time, so it’s any guess as to why I went back for more.  “Carved in Stigmata Wounds,” seemed, to me, to be a wholly different thing, so I decided to give that album a try.  I was right, a totally different direction for this band, but again I did not feel it was all that great of an album.  I also acquired “The Exhibitions” at the same time and now that was an Ep I thought was wonderful, so with their constant improvements over the years I was highly anticipating the oncoming storm that would be “Antithesis.”

“Antithesis” finally arrives.  Just looking through the booklet I could see this was going to be a highly compelling release.  The booklet is absolutely wonderfully designed by the way.  I didn’t know how compelling it would turn out to be, but I was ready for something grandiose when comparing the bands overall improvements.  I must be honest at first listen I had up and down feelings about this album.  For some reason, though, I couldn’t keep away from it.  It had some intoxicating quality, like when you get to the opening verse of “Confessions” it just kind of sticks with you for some reason.  So I felt compelled to listen to it again, this time it was better and on and on it went until this album landed as one of the best I’ve heard all year.  I judge this based, not just on the overall improvement they’ve made over the years, but also based on the fact that I can’t stop listening to this.  I continuously return to this album for the sheer enjoyment of it and for some reason it just continues to grow on me more and more.

For those of you who loved “Carved in Stigmata Wounds” you may or may not be disappointed with “Antithesis.”  “Antithesis” is a progression from “Carved in Stigmata Wounds,” but it still bears elements.  The clean guitar work that was fraught throughout “Carved in Stigmata Wounds” is still present, but the overall songwriting doesn’t feel all over the place.  It doesn’t feel nearly as progressive at times and I think overall the guitar work is slightly simpler by comparison.  Now, I would say “The Exhibitions” sounds very similar to Satyricon’s “Rebel Extravaganza,” but “Antithesis” really doesn’t.  You can hear a lot of elements from “The Exhibitions” in “Antithesis,” but they really dropped the Satyricon reference mostly.  I would say chord structure wise they bear more resemblance to Thorns, and the speed of play is much similar to early Thorns than the self titled.  This isn’t a fierce journey through blasting Black Metal by any means.  But again Secrets of the Moon aren’t ripping them off blatantly; on “The Exhibitions” you can hear the obvious “Rebel Extravaganza” influence, whereas the influences aren’t so obvious on “Antithesis.”  The only remotely remaining similar sound is the vocal performance and it works perfectly with “Antithesis.”

The problem with all this comparing and contrasting to their previous works is that it’s not totally synchronous.  You here parts here and there on “Antithesis” but “Antithesis” is the culmination of years of development.  This is the pinnacle of their career.  Where the previous works felt lacking, “Antithesis” feels fairly complete and it’s a much fuller album.  I’m not sure what Secrets of the Moon will do at this point, we will all have to wait and see.  Though, with creating a crowning achievement like this, it is likely that they will meander in this style for a while, which could lead to creative stagnation.  Stagnation can be both a good and a bad thing.  If they decide to progress beyond that then it may get to the point where all of us wish they would revisit the sound of “Antithesis.”  And from what I’ve seen of bands who attempt to “revisit” a sound years later they ultimately fail at it.  So at this point of my years of experienced listening, I’m starting to enjoy the concept of some stagnation.  Before I always looked for improvement, but where no one else is really putting together albums like “Antithesis” I do not think releasing another copy cat album, with similar arrangements, but different songs is such a bad idea.

The one and only part that seems to feel displaced to me are the solos.  This is only once in a while though, not all the solos feel a bit disjointed.  But at times I can’t help but feel the majestic power of “Seraphim is Dead” would be better served without the solo and let the hypnotic clean passage just sit in the listeners mind.  There are very few solos so this is hardly a damning aspect to the album, but they just felt out of place once in a while to me, or could have been better served elsewhere.

With music I unashamedly describe as majestic, powerful, and compelling, what kind of lyrical content complements such an impressive work?  Fairly thought out ones actually.  “Carved in Stigmata” wounds seemed to take some more philosophical lyrical approaches to the world around them but “Antithesis” simply puts that work to shame lyrically.  “Antithesis” clearly means “opposition” so what is the point of this album?  Opposition to God, things of the light, and life etc. as far as I can discern.  At points I think the author is taken a first person point of view on the lyrical content, but then we get to the song “Lucifer Speaks” which leads me to believe that maybe it is the point of view of the fallen angel?

A truly compelling album.  I think every track has a grandiose merit to the overall concept.  However, the main standout tracks for me, personally, were “Confessions,” “Seraphim is Dead,” and “Lucifer Speaks.”  This surely has a very epic quality given the conceptual story line and it really works well.  I don’t see anyone hating this album personally, because I would think anyone with a halfway intelligent brain would enjoy the myth they try to bring to life musically.  And I will close with my favorite line from “Confessions:”

“Today I washed my hands in ashes
I ate from the white doves
And yearned for Megiddo in excelsis”

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