(We present Andy Synn‘s review of the new album by A Secret Revealed, which will be released by Lifeforce Records on January 25th.)
I’d like to begin this review with a little aside, if I may?
The upcoming launch of the (probably terrible) Lords of Chaos movie has, unsurprisingly, sparked quite a few conversations about whether Black Metal has finally “gone mainstream” or not.
Now while I wouldn’t call it “mainstream” by any means – I fully expect this just to be another example of the popular crowd experiencing a passing fascination with a particular sub-culture, only to quickly move on to the next “in” thing as soon as it appears – I wouldn’t deny that Black Metal, and all its variants, sub-styles, and hybrid offspring, has experienced a definite upswing in exposure and awareness over the past several years.
In some ways this is a good thing. More people are discovering music that would, in other circumstances, have been well outside of their usual comfort zone, and many of these are then diving deeper into the history and importance of the genre (and, in turn, bringing new blood and new voices into it, preventing it from stagnating).
On the other hand, it’s also leading to quite a few people developing a very superficial understanding of what “Black Metal” is, one usually informed only by the most mainstream-friendly examples, causing them to misuse and misapply the term in all sorts of different ways, ranging from the simply misleading, to the downright mind-boggling.
And nowhere is this more obvious, to me at least, than in the liminal space where “Post Metal” meets “Post Black Metal”… which brings us, quite nicely to Sacrifices, the new album from German quintet A Secret Revealed.
As cohorts and compatriots of bands like Ancst (with whom they’re actually playing their album release show this very evening), Downfall of Gaia, and King Apathy (who they bear a particularly striking sonic resemblance to at times), A Secret Revealed have often been tagged as a “blackened” or “Post Black Metal” band by nefarious journo-types looking for a quick way to capitalise on the current ubiquity of those particular terms.
But while Michael (vocals), Ralf (guitar), Lukas (guitar), Julian (bass), and Tilman (drums) certainly have more of a solid claim on those terms than some other acts I can think of – the torrent of blazing fury unleashed during “The Isolation” and the final, frenzied minutes of riveting closer “In Vain”, for example, is as primal and as punishing as anything produced by their corpse-painted cousins – even ASR themselves seem to prefer to stick with the simple “Post Metal” moniker for their music, rather than try to muddy the waters by claiming to be something they’re not.
It’s a smart move on their part, too, and one which should help others judge their latest album purely on its own merit, instead of trying to ascribe a set of standards and judgements to it that, at best, make for a particularly awkward fit.
Make no mistake about it, for the majority of the time the music on Sacrifices follows firmly in the footsteps of platonic Post-Metal artists such as Planks and Amenra (with perhaps a few references to Omega Massif thrown in for good measure), and songs like the chillingly atmospheric “Ashes”, “Old Ghosts” and late-album highlight “The Downfall” should satisfy even the most demanding connoisseur of catharsis with their striking blend of bold, bombastic riffs, moody melodies, and howling, Hardcore-influenced vocals.
But if that was all this album was, just another in a long line of well-meaning and well-written Post-Metal records that never really shakes or stirs up the underlying formula, then this review would have been a whole lot shorter (and a whole lot less interesting to write).
Thankfully, however, it’s got much more to offer than the same old, same old… and here is where we come to the crux of the matter, as this is largely due to that pesky Black Metal influence I alluded to earlier on.
Now, while the presence of this subtly blackened element in their sound shouldn’t be over-emphasised or overstated (in fact the band themselves seem careful to understate and underplay this particular card as best as they can), its presence simply can’t be ignored, and there are times (such as during the frenetic one-two combo of “Empty Throne” and “Hollows” or the aforementioned “The Isolation”) when ASR’s sound errs far closer to that of bands like Bosse De Nage, Oathbreaker, and Terzij de Horde, than it does to any of their Post-Metal peers.
I suppose, ultimately, what I’m saying here is that to really appreciate this album, the way its authors clearly meant for it to be appreciated, you have to measure your expectations correctly.
If you go in expecting some sort of Post-Black blastathon akin to Wiegedood or Wolves In The Throne Room then you’ll undoubtedly find yourself a little disappointed. As while there’s a bevy of blastbeats and scything chord cascades to be found on this album, they serve more as seasoning and extra flavour, with the real meat and marrow of the music stemming from the band’s undeniably potent Post-Metal roots.
So if you bear that in mind, and both understand and embrace exactly what it is that makes this particular style so immersive and engaging, then I think you’ll find that, on Sacrifices, A Secret Revealed are more than capable of going toe-to-toe, and pound for pound, with any of their peers or predecessors you might wish to name.