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Secrets of the Sky: To Sail Black Waters

I wish I had the lyrics to this album in front of me because I get the feeling that this album tells a rather dramatic tale involving conjuring, magic, and demonic possession—the very stuff of horror and fantasy. I also recognized—in the track "Black Waters"—the infamous couplet from H. P. Lovecraft's "The Nameless City" which reads "That is not dead which can eternal lie, / And with strange aeons even death may die." Lots of metal fans know that couplet. It appeared on the cover of Iron Maiden's Live After Death (in slightly modified form) and also served as part of Metallica's lyrics To "The Thing that Should Not Be." In some ways, I could even argue that Lovecraft's language lines up perfectly with certain aspects of heavy metal's own self-conception. Some metal, like some of Lovecraft's tales, treats the overall strangeness of life and of death, the tenuous nature of human existence, and the simultaneous hope and fear of living forever. Maybe I'm making too much of all this, but I can't help it. It's fascinating to think about the ways heavy metal music intersects with stories and ideas written decades ago.

As for the business at hand, To Sail Black Waters is a strong and superb debut release, one that I'd place in the ongoing tradition of Lovecraft-inspired metal. The band's promotional materials suggest that the dominant musical influences include Opeth, The Ocean, Isis, and Agalloch. I'd agree with that list, though I don't know that any one of these bands would sync up exactly with what Secrets of the Sky is doing. To me, these guys sound as though they've already discovered precisely what they want to sound like. I was especially impressed with the way the band mixes doom with post metal and something that could be described as progressive rock. Instead of sounding like a confused hybrid of these three styles, though, the band keeps things grounded squarely in the low growl of doom metal; the difference between this band and others is that they are unafraid to fill the spaces with keyboards, violin passages, and clean vocals. It works. If anything, this band is expanding the sonic possibilities of doom metal without sacrificing its essential dark nature.

Fans that listen to this album in one sitting will find the whole thing to be thematically and musically satisfying. Those with shorter attention spans should at least check out "Black Waters." Even though the band is putting "Decline" before the public first, it is this last track that really captures the full range of what this band is trying to accomplish. Besides, "Black Waters" also has the Lovecraft passage I mentioned above. This is a solid debut from a band well worth discovering.

Track Listing:
1. Winter
2. Decline
3. Sunrise
4. Black Waters

Added: September 5th 2013
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 2445
Language: english

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