Once in a blue moon a band comes along and releases an album that you can clearly see will entrench them into the annals of genre lore, an album that just sets them apart from the competition from first to last note. This year’s “it” record very well may come from newest Metal Blade signing, Secrets of the Sky in the form of their sophomore full-length album, Pathway.
This column has been a fan of Secrets of the Sky since their 2013 debut album, and they even made an appearance on our year-end list that year. Even on their debut Secrets of the Sky were proudly carrying the torch of California doom – a style unique all to itself and perfected in so many different ways by such wide-ranging acts as Saint Vitus, High On Fire, Neurosis, Mindrot, and Morgion to name a select few. That is to say, if you are looking for cookie-cutter doom metal you have absolutely lit the wrong spliff and stumbled into the wrong haze. There is nothing predictable about this band and that’s utterly one of the many elements that their growing fan base is ever so fond of.
The album opens with the lapping of ocean waves and a thunderous storm brewing off in the distance. It’s an ample set-up for an album that comes bum-rushing through the door like a murderous force of nature. One minute foreboding and ambient, the next surging and violent, in its delivery, Pathway is an album with more twists and turns than a euthanizing roller coaster, but proverbially just as deadly. On their debut album Secrets of the Sky cherry-picked some of the best elements from a wide ranging cavalcade of influences – doom, death metal, second wave black metal, etc. – to form a towering and distinctive sound. On Pathway, their sonic journey sees them exploring even further into the recesses of a musical cave filled with endless amounts of both wickedness and beauty.
First and foremost this is an album meant to be listened to from start to finish, uninterrupted. The term ‘concept record’ is not out of play, especially if speaking solely of how the music itself fits amidst a myriad of interludes designed to progress the storytelling. The respites offered up though are not nearly enough to catch your breath because there is simply so much to digest from track to track. Take the middle of the album where the ethereal “Garden of Prayers” sways and moves like two dancers in a field of poppies, only to doze and awaken at the threshold of hell on the track “Fosforos,” one replete with unholy howls and a truly cacophonous sound. And what a sound it is. It is completely engulfing at times. Tracks like “Three Swords” and “Eternal Wolves” just seem to swallow you whole into a vortex where pummeling brutality and serene gloominess swirl together like some sort of malevolent tie-dye.
Epic is a word that gets tossed around way, way too much when discussing music these days. Even after its overuse has been acknowledged, at least in metal circles, it is still heard in places it shouldn’t be…this is not one of those places. Secrets of the Sky have truly crafted a sound and an album fitting of the ‘e’-word moniker. It’s a colossal effort with some stupendous songwriting and production work. Pathway will be released via Metal Blade Records on May 19. You can sample the track “Three Swords” and check out the video for the track Angel In Vines at the Metal Blade website.