As the black light of knowledge emanates from the most arcane and formless of sources, it touches a select few, instantly establishing a living vessel of truth and wisdom in our tangible realm of existence. In order to reach those who identify with the darkness, a cryptic barrier must elude the weak-minded. Hence, the mysterious nature of the blackest of metal allows a deeper level of transmission to reach the ears prepared for the message. If ever darkness radiated from a source and shined upon the initiated, the creations of Secrets of the Moon (GER) contain that unique quality that can only be identified as light-bearing. It is a cleansing and transformative light that few artists can harness in their music. Truly this is upper-level black metal. Empty, angst-ridden vows or mystical odes to nature are nowhere to be found on this piece of spiritual art. With Seven Bells, the latest chapter in the ongoing history of one of black metal’s most impossible to categorize, a level of control and mastery co-exist in equal measures to portray a visceral obeisance to death and ascendance. Despite the seemingly simplistic nature of the compositions and the precision at which they are executed, that which is hidden beneath the surface preserves the endlessly enigmatic nature of such a confounding force.
Inaccessible to the self-appointed black metal elitist and far too sinister for the common ear, Seven Bells pushes an evolving sound into a realm of effective subtlety. It is step into territory not yet fully explored: common practice with each SotM offering. Superbly clean production and incredibly tight riffing are not two phrases normally heard, let alone lauded, while describing possibly the most evil record of the year. Not to mention an overwhelming presence of musicality and composition exist in undeniable doses on this offering. Is there a surprise that at the helm of production is the king of understated power, Tom G. Warrior? Like the band itself, there is an impossible quality in this vicious, yet composed, expression, and it is the intangible nature that entices the seeker. Swathed in layers of spell-weaving clean guitar work exist simple-yet-effective riffs that hit with a merciless force. Juxtaposition such as this reveals that the simplicity is a conspired decision – clearly the ability is there, as any fan of their previous opus Carved in Stigmata wounds can attest to – and one is left to ponder why? There is a greater plan at work here, and the precision is a direct testament to this assertion. The often primitive nature at work in the riffage is in direct contrast to high-level occult darkness that perpetually dwells just out of arms reach. The eyes of a thousand demons are on the listener at all times, as if he is a practitioner of the works of darkness opening an unintended gateway. The voice of mastermind sG calls out to this unnameable horde in command and reverence – both aggressively visceral and, at times, other-worldly all together. It is an all too familiar ritual executed with total devotion and flawlessness, achieving the so desired outcome of the working.
A slow and torturous pace commands this album in a way that feels smothered by a cascade of black viscous tar. It is the resulting harvest of so many seeds planted on previous efforts: a progressively declining tempo and a crystal clarity have both incrementally edged their way towards the material on Seven Bells. Even fleeting moments of clean-voiced evocations fill the space left by the cruel snarl of sG, giving subtle glimpses of the beauty found in total darkness. It is challenging to the purist and refreshing to the rest of us who embrace positive evolution. Undeniably, there is a level of accessibility that scares off the filth-monger, desperately in search of the next Judas Iscariot clone. Clarity reveals a bare-bones approach to song writing, and preserves an intimate level of raw honesty. SotM can do this like no other: many have failed in this attempt. There is knowledge to be transmitted through this black metal medium, and it shall not be sullied by ill production decisions only for the sake of it. Yes, clarity exists, but total transparency is not to be found. The mystery is thick, and hidden in the recesses are kernels of intrigue and truth. The resulting emanation is sometimes too overwhelming to take in at once as there are endless intricacies found in every corner. Snippets of sampled sound occasionally encircle the listener – something was there, it is vaguely identifiable, but why is it there? More questions than answers: a mark of a successful piece of art.
Entrancement takes control as this rolling cascade of death and darkness lurches onward. Beyond the audible is a higher level of cerebral engagement that is just as important, if not more. Seven Bells is another vessel to proselytize faith in the end, and the inevitable blackness that will meet us all. Let the coiling black serpents from the abyss take hold and re-submerge you, as the listener, into another level of sinister devotion. Secrets of the Moon have created the album that was always just on the horizon, both musically and thematically. There is perfection in the art, and ultimately spiritual elevation is perceptible and achievable. One of the most confounding bands in black metal has always been ahead of the curve – outside of the circle of expectations but still very much in the lead. The Seven Bells toll! For they are the prophets, bringers of death!
01) Seven Bells
03) Serpent Messiah
04) Blood Into Wine
07) The Three Beggars