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Secrets of the Moon - "Privilegivm" (CD)

Secrets of the Moon - "Privilegivm" CD cover image

"Privilegivm" track listing:

1. Privilegivm (1:53)
2. Sulphur (9:12)
3. Black Halo (7:05)
4. I Maldoror (7:43)
5. Harvest (13:29)
Part I: I Forgive Myself
Part II: The Tree Of Life
Part III: Exsultet
6. For They Know Not (9:36)
7. Queen Among Rats (7:59)
8. Descent (1:23)
9. Shepherd (7:12)

Reviewed by on January 6, 2010

"The band’s attention to detail and willingness to stretch songs to lengths most black metal bands would be afraid to traverse creates something unique and thrilling."

Music aficionados tend to label bands a particular genre that narrows them into a tight category. Dream Theater is progressive metal, Cannibal Corpse is death metal and so on down the line, until everybody is placed into corners. There are bands that straddle the line between genres, like Opeth, but even then, a crazy sub-genre is made up to place them somewhere (technical progressive death grind, anyone?). Secrets Of The Moon is widely known as a black metal band, but that seems to be an unfair label; in essence, completely undermining their artistic reverence. Not content with endless blast beats and a suffocating atmosphere, the band works around the formulaic black metal sound by incorporates doom-ish melodies and grandiose songwriting. This molds “Privilegivm” into an album that is black at heart, but progressive in mind.

Coming off a major line-up shift that included the departure of founding bassist/vocalist Daevas, Secrets Of The Moon combated that by sticking to their guns and further pushing themselves away from the black metal tag. Aside from the raspy vocal style and an occasional fast section, most of “Privilegivm” sticks to a mid-paced tempo. With each song clocking in at an average of seven minutes, there are a lot of twists and turns taken throughout each track. With over an hour of material to wade through, it can become overwhelming at times, especially when the songs reach the ten-minute mark.

However, credit needs to be given to Secrets Of The Moon for maintaining the listener’s interest for long periods of time. With steady tempo shifts, keyboard flourishes, and clean passages packed into each song, the band breaks from the norm with epics like “Sulphur” and “For They Know Not.” There is a surprising abundance of catchy material, a characteristic not partially well-established in the genre. “I Maldoror” has an infectious twist that sharply contrasts with the brooding lyrics.

The centerpiece of “Privilegivm” is smacked dab in the middle with the three-part “Harvest.” A slow build with heavy percussion leads to a mammoth riff-fest, with several spoken word passages that ramble like the thoughts of a lost soul condemning humanity. The song does drag near the end, but the musicianship is top-notch, with special mention given to drummer T. Thelemnar’s tasteful fills and steady double bass, providing a solid burst of momentum the whole 13-odd minutes.

Black metal is known for its intensity and unbridled aggression, two traits that shine on “Privilegivm.” The speed may be toned down, but the atmosphere reeks of agony and disdain towards those who preach towards a false deity. A question of faith seems to be the underlying message to the album, sometimes with vividly lucid imagery (“The tree of life is burning/climb up and catch the serpents flame/a new Bethlehem covered in filth”) and others times as obvious as a blunt trauma to the head (“God abandoned you/God fucked you”). Obviously, this subject matter is not for those who are easily offended, but since black metal and religion mix as well as tuna and macaroni and cheese, this isn’t surprising in the least bit.

When an album is as long as “Privilegivm” is, there is always the risk of filler. With only nine tracks, there isn’t much to worry about; even the brief intro and interlude tacked on near the end don’t hinder the proceedings. The bland closer “Shepherd” is the only track that even comes close to unnecessary. A low-key ending to the album, “Shepherd” features the best solo on the album, a throwback to the early days of progressive rock, and some strong rhythm work, but the awful clean singing and prolonged explosive conclusion makes for one of the weaker songs on the album.

A few duds don’t stop “Privilegivm” from being another blasphemous success for Secrets Of The Moon. The band’s attention to detail and willingness to stretch songs to lengths most black metal bands would be afraid to traverse creates something unique and thrilling. This is the type of album that takes a while to click, but those who are patient enough will grasp the full picture the band was trying to paint.

Highs: Black metal for those who don't like it, keeps the listener's interest for an hour-plus, strong rhythm work, three-part epic "Harvest."

Lows: "Shepherd" is a weak ending to the album, long songs may turn off a few people, lyrical subject isn't for the easily offended.

Bottom line: A great progressive black metal album that doesn't succumb to a generic formula or sound.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)