There is a great deal of history that follows Secrets of the Moon. The German extreme metal band emerged from the ashes of the obscure, primal black metal outfit, Martyrium. A series of great albums would follow, with the band showcasing in an excellent manner their doom/black hybrid approach. However, through the years it seems as if a change was lurking at the core of the band. That did not mean a dismissal of the style that the band was following for most of its existence, but rather an expansion, a re-thinking of black metal in general. Their previous album, Seven Bells, was hailed as a black metal record stripped from the pretensions of the genre, a very accurate description. Therefore in a sense, Sun is a continuation of this mentality.
Black metal still lurks heavily in Sun, an approach that is fairly obvious when the more aggressive side of Secrets of the Moon rises to the surface. Outbreaks in “No More Colours” signal such moments of anger and anguish, while more melodic instances of the genre occur in tracks such as “The Man Behind The Sun.” Other times it is the eerie essence of black metal that finds its way into the structure of the song, as is the case with the lead work of “Here Lies The Sun,” containing an inherent mystical quality. And then there is of course the return to the black metal roots with the final track of the album, “Mark of Cain,” paying tribute to the three pillars of the first wave of black metal. From the intense Venom-ous parts, to the Celtic Frost-ian groove and attitude and finally to the Bathory-esque epic sound, it is an absolute highlight of the album.
In a similar manner, the doom side of the band is still present, giving a certain type of gloom and melancholy to the music. The opening track features such parts as the sorrowful guitars lead the way. However, the doom mentality does become more obscure, as the slithering parts of “Dirty Black” come into view, or the heavy beating in “Man Behind The Sun.” While when the black and doom sides meet, as happens with “I Took The Sky Away,” the band is able to infuse its track with what appears to be a dark psychedelic instance.
Secrets of the Moon do go further though, avoiding to be pigeon-holed in a just a couple of genres. It is not so much that Sun contains elements from different genres, even though it does (the darkwave leanings in “Hole” and “Here Lies The Sun” for example,) but that it is rather a holistic approach, that sees the band going back to what essentially are the fundamentals of heavy music. By stepping away from the clichés of extreme metal, the band is allowed to extend its sound, building music that appeals directly to the listener, carrying also a lot of emotion. The album itself is filled with melodies, and those do not fall into the melodic black metal category, but rather the rock and heavy metal side that the band is developing. There are parts of this album that will bring memories of classic heavy metal records, but brought to today's sound by a band that historically and intellectually exists in the extreme edge of the metal spectrum. That is fairly similar to the approach that Nightfall took on their last couple of albums, where they stepped away from their extreme side and went in search of the core of heavy music, releasing excellent albums in the process (Cassiopeia for instance.)
But also, apart from staying true to the very roots of heavy music, Secrets of the Moon are still capable of finding the space for experimentation. Tracks such as “I Took The Sky Away” manages on one hand to encompass the main ingredients of the band's sound along with their extensions, and a progressive and at the same time psychedelic approach, brilliantly showing how unique this band can be. It is great to see how a band with a great deal of history is still able to change their sound, experiment with their abilities and is not afraid to step away from their safe place. That is what Secrets of the Moon are doing with Sun and they are rewarded with putting out an album that sounds like a modern heavy metal classic.
8.7 / 10
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