Germany – a country that is famous for some of the best built and reliable cars in the world, Kreator, decent beer, and stern punctuality – to name a few things. Black Metal, however, is not something that would immediately spring to mind.
Enter Secrets of the Moon, a band hailing from Osnabrück, Germany who have been around since 1995 with a grand total of 13 albums and EP’s under their belt. A band that has somehow managed to slip under my radar, until now – and a band I am kicking myself for not knowing of them before.
This album, is a very interesting prospect. Their style of black metal has plenty of substance, with a rich sonic tapestry that demands the full attention of the listener. If you’re looking for a simple 30 minute foot to the floor stomper that exits as quickly as it enters, you will definitely not find it here. Each track is a very involved and intricate work, that average between six and a half or ten minutes per track. This may sound like they ‘noodle on too long’ on paper, but the tracks really do hold the attention span of the discerning extreme metal fan.
Opening track ‘Seven Bells’ lures the listener in with an ominous intro of chiming bells and slow, dramatic guitar riffs that slowly build up, reminding me very much of Celtic Frost with a growled vocal style – an interesting point to note is that the vocals are deceptively easy to follow in places; in a manner similar to Cannibal Corpse‘s ‘The Bleeding’. ‘Goathead’ starts off with a thrashy guitar intro, that slows down and speeds back up in a manner similar to Satyricon‘s best works; with a touch of foreboding drama permeating the track to slow down to a doom laden pace halfway through and sticking a near blackened sludge.
‘Serpent Messiah’ starts with a catchy drum loop and style that is foot tappingly catchy with the Satyricon comparisons coming to the fore once more; but in a manner that is distinctly their own and not by any means an out and out rip off, with a hypnotic fists in the air chorus. ‘Blood Into Wine’ starts off sounding like a black metal version of ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’, which thunders off into poly-rhythmic drumming with feverish tremolo guitar and thundering bass lines. ‘Worship’ starts with chiming guitar chords and a planet size guitar tone, sticking to a slower and doom laden pace permeated by shouted vocals with the usual black metal growl; ebbing and soaring with tremolo guitars to enter a full on thrashing stomp four and a half minutes into the track.
Closing tracks ‘Nyx’, and the ‘The Three Beggers’ go beyond the ten minute duration marker which demands the full commitment of the listener. The tracks in question ebb and flow, speeding up and soaring majestically like a night owl over a mountainous sound-scape. ‘Nyx’ in particular ending in a dramatic manner with slow organ keys with a sense of crushing despair; while ‘The Three Beggars’ thunders along underpinned by a clearly defined bass stomp and rhythmic hooks with the sung mantra of “They rise, they fall”.
To conclude: Even though Secrets of the Moon are a band that are not quite as well known as their Scandinavian contemporaries, they are definitely not a band to be overlooked. While most bands of their ilk thunder away with sonic bludgeon, Secrets of the Moon prefer to play and toy with the listener with many hooks, lures, and sonic dynamics that truly belong within the top category of the black metal elite to leave the listener even more damaged, bruised and scarred.
If you’ve not heard of them before, quickly rectify the situation and give this album a worthy place in your collection. Highly recommended.