Secrets of the Moon – Seven Bells (Prophecy Productions)

Monday, 25th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Always found these guys to be a bit too clean and pristine to be a melodic black metal band. Then again, it would be counterproductive if they sounded like they recorded their albums in a shoebox, which according to a former bandmate of this scribe, actually does take place. In France, apparently. But for Germany’s Secrets of the Moon, the trick has always been in their streamlined compositions, most of which are a notch below Watain and several stratospheres away from Dissection, but several laps ahead of Naglfar. On their fourth album Seven Bells, the status quo remains.

Per the title of Seven Bells, the chiming of bells usher in the opening title track where a confluence of dark and ominous riffs clash up against razed black metal. The chorus here is immediate and on-the-money, probably because it’s really easy to shout “Seven…bells!” but we digress. The mid-paced rumble of “Goathead” is a charmer, especially when an elongated melody starts to coil, while the single-oriented “Serpent Messiah” has all of the commercial dinginess and cull of modern-day Dimmu Borgir.

Because the Germans aren’t quite apt to push the speed envelope, the channeled atmosphere on Seven Bells is perhaps the most noticeable trait. Whether it’s on the militaristic “Blood Into Wine” or experimental closing number “The Three Beggars,” Secrets of the Moon are able to do what most black metal can’t do, and that is create atmosphere with bare-bones elements. And if the band’s simple-on-simple execution achieves something, it’s that.

With a little more pushing of the melodic needle to the right, Secrets of the Moon could be more than just an everyman German black metal band. On Seven Bells, they provide the necessary amount of evil-doing, haunting of the chapels, and spell-casting, all done without getting all animated and hokey on us. The scene could benefit from more bands like Secrets of the Moon. They’re all business.

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