SECRETS OF THE SKY “To Sail Black Waters” /Digipack CD/

The debut full-length album by American Progressive Black/Doom Metal band.
Projecting a unique brand of cinematic, cerebral, Atmospheric Metal with a persuasion towards Doom Metal and even more Blackened influences citing The Ocean, Opeth, Isis, Agalloch and others, on "To Sail Black Waters", California’s ambidextrous collective make contributions with multiple instruments, layering synth/keys, violins and an array of vocal styles atop the crushing rhythm section and massive triple guitar attack. The booming, pristine production of the album magnifies the band’s power with impeccable clarity, the outcome of a massive spread-out eight month period of recording sessions at Trident Studios with engineer/producer Juan Urteaga (Testament, Machine Head, Cattle Decapitation).
The Oakland based sextet takes what is a great but tired genre and adds a dash of Black Metal and a bit of Prog. Imagine if you tossed Neurosis, more recent Immortal, and Porcupine Tree into a blender. Sounds like a f**ked up mix, right? It's an awesome f**ked up mix though! "The Sail Black Waters" consists of 4 tracks that are rooted in Sludge, that manage to take twists and turns throughout it's all-too-short forty-one minute run-time. There are moments of dreamy soundscapes, harmonized clean vocals, and crescendos aplenty.
A band they bring to mind is the Australian Black Metal band Ne Obliviscaris. They don't necessarily sound alike, especially because Secrets Of The Sky simple aren't playing as fast, but their progressions are quite similar. Also, Secrets happen to employ a violin as one of the several talents of vocalist Garett Gazay. Their use of it is much more subtle than Ne Obliviscaris to the point where it becomes a game listening for it.
Despite having songs averaging longer than ten minutes, Secrets makes each memorable, or at least distinguishable, by changing its formula from piece to piece. Gazay throws clean vocals in the mix alongside his growls and hollow rasp on “Decline”, while power-chord riffing gives way to dissonant harmonics. “Sunrise”, whose initial riff perhaps falls short of the rest, is buoyed by a pair of perfectly placed and uplifting (as Doom Metal goes) choruses. While Ryan Healy’s bass playing is audible throughout, he never really makes his presence known until the title track; “Black Waters”, however opens with a bass riff taken straight from John Williams’ nightmares, as if to signify that this is the album’s climax. Indeed, everything about “Black Waters” screams of an ending, down to its chanted chorus of. After pounding through those titular stormy waters for ten minutes, the song gives way to a haunting refrain that closes the album perfectly.
Secrets Of The Sky isn’t doing anything revolutionary yet, but based on the early returns that’s probably for the best – it’s nice to hear a band focused on getting the finer points of its craft right instead of trying to invent a new one. As a whole, the songwriting on "To Sail Black Waters" is well-balanced and understated in the way that made bands like Neurosis legends. While that may be setting an awfully high bar, Secrets Of The Sky already has a strong foundation and an album that gets better with each listen. 
"To Sail Black Waters" is among the more eminently listenable Doom/Sludge Metal efforts of the year! For fans of: The Ocean, Opeth, Isis, and Agalloch!!
Kolony Records, 2013 (KR015CD). Made in Italy. First press.

1. Winter 9:05
2. Decline 12:46
3. Sunrise 7:43
4. Black Waters 11:22
Total playing time: 40:56


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