Friday, 30 August 2013

Secrets Of The Sky - To Sail Black Waters (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released : 8/10/2013
Label: Kolony Records

To Sail Black Waters, album tracklisting :

1. Winter
2. Decline
3. Sunrise
4. Black Water

Three of the band’s six members each contributing with multiple instruments, SECRETS OF THE SKY projects a unique brand of cinematic, cerebral, atmospheric metal with a heavy persuasion towards doom metal and even more blackened influences citing The Ocean, Opeth, Isis, Agalloch and others.

The debut album from this new but skilled act, To Sail Black Waters, was recorded over an eight month period with engineer/producer Juan Urteaga (Testament, Machine Head, Cattle Decapitation) at Trident Studios, the massive album boasting SECRETS OF THE SKY’s entirely modern and unique back-bending of elements from a multitude of genres. With up to three guitar tracks, two and three keyboards at a time and a multitude of vocal styles — clean and epic lines against hollow and blackened battle cries and crushing, low-end growls — the band creates huge buildups and epic movements as expansive as the cosmos.

Garett Gazay – vocals, keyboards, violin
Chris Anderson – guitars, keyboards
Clayton Bartholomew – guitars, keyboards
Andrew Green – guitars
Ryan Healy – bass
Lance Lea – drums

Epic progressive doom with blackened influences and aspects. So what do you get for your money. You get four tracks- the shortest of which is 7.43 long. This Oakland CA six piece know what to do with the time; each track is expansive, multi-faceted and will hold your interest. It's bleak stuff, which does not sound very Californian. Then again, I suspect much of Oakland isn't exactly how you might imagine/want California to be.

“Winter” comes in over the nine minute mark with a suitably icy sound. Screamed and low vocals trade off while the guitars range from melodic and mellow to positively feral. The production is pleasingly clear and bright- but still raw and grimy enough as to be appropriate.

“Decline” is mesmerising in its bleakness (that kind of sums the whole record, to be fair). It continues and indeed expands on the opener. Clean vocals add a Gothic aspect (think Type O, not The Cure) that is unique and welcome. Keyboards add another layer to the sound as the guitars weave together expertly. This is brilliant stuff. The pace is slow but fluid and the generous 12 minute plus length of the track allows you to really get into this most unusual of sounds. The final 3 minutes plus are even heavier than what goes before and features an excellent riff prior to the track breaking down.

Sunrise” starts with a lumbering doom riff (backed with an interesting keyboard counterpoint) and thereafter dynamics are used effectively with some truly unpleasant vocals too. Again, there is a definite gothic influence here (to my ears, anyway) and I like it. The opening riff gets returned too; this is not just progressive “throw anything in” writing- the tracks work as pieces of music and structured songs.

“Black Waters” at 11.22 closes the album is impressively expansive style. The intro builds things very nicely as the crystal clear drums crash in with a well worked groove that the bass propels along until the vocals come to the fore. Real heaviness follows with those black metal-esque vocals ripping out of the speakers. The track then twists and turns its way along numerous pathways before stripping away towards the end.

If you are looking for a record that is a little different with elements of multiple sub-genres, give this album a try. Truly accomplished stuff and, yes, mesmerisingly bleak.

As ever, show your support to the band by checking them out at the various links. You can buy the record here from 8/10/2013. Thanks to SureShotWorx.

Words by : Richard Maw.

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