Review by Brian on May 28, 2015.
One of the surprises of the year comes with Secret of the Sky's Pathway. Compared to bands such as Katatonia and Anathema, or so it says on the album's sticker, sets the bar extremely high. These influence can be heard, especially the latter. There is more to it than just that. It's not just rehashed, 1990's era doom metal. Better comparisons can be drawn to Finland's Swallow the Sun, with it's more blackened approach mixed with the Earthy feel of Canada's Woods of Ypres. Sure they incorporate some Serenades era Anathema which bring beauty and melody to the mix. Secrets of the Sky do manage to take on their own vibe and after listening I see why Metal Blade jumped at the chance to sign these guys.
Pathway is a concept album consisting of 6 proper songs and 7 ambient interludes simply titled 1-7 or I-VII if you prefer. Lyrically it tells the story of some swords that I'm assuming are magic in someway. Some deals are made, some witchcraft takes place, a suicide pact and...I am not going to spoil it for you and it is left up to individual interpretation. The music compliments this with a dark brooding atmosphere, it's uplifting and beautiful at times and down right ugly at others. It's actually a pretty eclectic album and draws from several different styles.The vocals range from guttural growns and tortured screams to soaring clean harmonies. The music is gothic tinged doom, black metal and some hints of post rock/metal and the song writing is pretty damn good. Pathway is a very ambitious record and for the most part they succeeded.
Of the proper songs, they each work perfectly within the album, but all stand out individually too. You can drop the needle on any of the songs and listen to them outside the confines of the album. That's what makes this an extremely strong effort. After an intro, "Three Swords" slowly builds momentum from it's gothic tinged minimalist beginnings to a kaleidoscope of sound that comes in waves over the listener. "Angel in Vines" is the most 90's English doom inspired piece, but again it takes on more than that. It's magnificent chorus and it's blackened tremolo picking at the end give it that little something extra. "Another Light" has a very Earthy organic feel resembling that of Agalloch and Woods of Ypres. It's soft and emotional end as the words "I don't care anymore" are repeated over and over again is the perfect ending to the first half of Pathway. The second half of the record is more aggressive and darker. "Garden of Prayers" is very moody and doom laden. "Fosforos" is the heaviest and most aggressive song. It's up tempo pace breathes life back to the album. It concludes on the highest of notes with "Eternal Wolves". This song sums up the entire album in 7 minutes and is the perfect closer and the albums best song.
Overall it's a pretty good. I understand the purpose of all the interludes and sound effects, but I feel it's overdone and the band would have been better served to include a couple more songs. Of the six songs that do appear they are all well written and well executed. This is my first experience with the band, I am anxious to get my hands on their debut To Sail Black Waters and I am excited about the the possibilities that the future holds.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Review by Adam M on May 28, 2015.
This Secrets of the Sky release totally surprised me. The band incorporates elements of post-metal, but in a fashion that is far different than what Cult of Luna, Isis and Neurosis employ. There is a more hollow, yet tuneful atmosphere that might be also borrowing elements from doom and black metal.
The overall result, however, is unlike anything I’ve heard. People have been knocking the vocals, but I feel the spiteful nature they portray combines with the musical vision of the band quite well. The post-apocalyptic vibe of the band fits in as well with the books The Stand and Swan Song as it does with the music of Deathspell Omega. There is certainly a fiery feeling to this music and this aspect is emphasized perfectly through these tracks. I must say that post-metal fans have a reason to rejoice with this other avenues that are explored by this band. Innovation is an aspect of a music record that is inevitably very important and I believe Secrets of the Sky has struck gold on that facet. Right from the track Three Swords a number of interesting and compelling avenues are explored. The production of the band is crisp and lets this outfit’s pure power shine through. If there is anything to fault with this album, it is that it is too short and one might wish that a couple of the interludes were replaced with more musical ventures. However, the attention grabbing effects of the songs on this release make every listening moment compelling. This band has taken another step forward and asserted their presence with Pathway.
I look forward to what the future holds for them and will cherish this release as one of the better ones from either the post or doom metal genres this year. Fans of those genres should miss this outstanding release at their own peril.
Rating: 9 out of 10