Review Summary: Secret Chiefs 3's Book of Horizons succeeds in creating unique cross-genres that mix Middle-Eastern folk with genres such as surf-rock and metal. The album is fun, ecclectic, ever-changing, and doesn't drag.2 of 2 thought this review was well writtenSECRET CHIEFS 3
Book Of Horizons
Secret Chiefs 3 is mainly composed by former Mr. Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance. Many of you know the background that he comes from. Mr. Bungle is known for its span over a vast number of genres, and the influence can definitely be heard. SS3’s music continues where Mr. Bungle left off. On one track you’ll be listening to Middle-Eastern folk music, and then you will be hammered in the face by a terrifying death metal onslaught. Does this sound familiar? Book of Horizons can be easily identified with Mike Patton’s project, but seeing as there is no Mike Patton here, it lacks the insanity that made Mr. Bungle so much fun to listen to, but do not think this as a downside. Book of Horizons is much more instrumentally-based, using a broad array of odd instruments, some of which include banjos, violins (not necessarily odd), and many Middle-Eastern folk instruments. This adds a unique feel to the music that I have never heard before. Have you ever heard Middle-Eastern surf rock? I didn’t think so.
And now on to the track-by-track…
The End Times – The album kicks off with this masterpiece. It starts with some soft keyboard work, very eastern sounding. An acoustic guitar slowly fades in behind it along with a strange sound following along with the keyboard, possibly another keyboard (correct me if I’m wrong). As the song progresses, violins enter along with the nice touch of a sitar. I just love the feel of this track when the percussion enters, giving it more of the eastern flavor. I don’t know what to classify this song as exactly, but it is closest to eastern folk if you ask me. Overall, it’s an great track.
The 4 (Great Ishraqi Sun) – This song is much more upbeat than the last, but it still sounds like a folk song. A great variety of instruments are used here. Far in the background of all the music, you can hear a distorted electric guitar taking the back seat until it is finally heard fully at the end of the song. Slightly repetitive, but the ending is worth it. Great songwriting by Spruance here.
The Indestructible Drop – There isn’t much to write about this track, as it is only about a minute long. During the small span, a keyboard gives a nice atmospheric feel, and at the end you hear it crescendo and segue into…
Exterminating Angel – This gives us a fine change from the previous folk songs and gives us some nice old-fashioned death metalllll! It enters with a small drum fill and the song begins. The guitar just sounds empty for the first minute, like it isn’t as heavy our loud as it should be. Over this you hear some terrifying shrieks like those that come from being tortured (and we all know how that feels, right?). Keyboard adds to the sound to make a slightly fuller sound. The drumming reminds me of Brann Dailor from Mastodon because of the frequent drum fills. At a minute into the song, everything comes to a halt. After a few stop-start moments, the song blasts off into some fast guitar and death vocals. The song comes to another stop again, and you get the feeling that it has changed for good. A choir sings a few words over light effect-laden guitar, and then BOOM! back into the metal until the song comes to an end. Another fantastic song.
The Owl In Daylight – Piano fades in at the start and then several different instruments come in and seem to be playing their own things. It’s very chaotic, but still somewhat organized. Soon everything comes together and the playing is very mellow. In the middle of the song, we arrive at doom metal. The melodic piano resumes playing over the gloom. This ends and the section from the beginning chaos resumes with added instruments and the song comes to a close. Interesting song.
The Exile – Here we have a beautiful piece, another great twist. That’s one wonderful thing about this album is that you never have the same song twice. The song starts with an acoustic guitar playing arpeggiated chords with violins floating overhead. It quickly evolves into a fantastic symphonic song. Halfway through, the mood changes to a depressing tone. The keys really start to shine throughout the rest of the song. The mood begins to rise again and it fades out with the sound of dripping water. I always imagine this as a part in the soundtrack of a movie where the epic climax occurs. This is a must-hear.
On The Wings Of The Haoma – Remember that Middle-Eastern surf rock I mentioned earlier? Well, here it is. To add to that description, throw in some electronic elements. This certainly is an odd track here. It starts off with very eastern-sounding percussion. Some carnival-sounding keyboards come in for a short while and then the percussion continues by itself some more. Random spurts of assorted instruments come in, and then a short ambience ensues. An eerie atmosphere engulfs you. Around 3:30 you get this weird Arab spasm and then surf-rock carries the song to its end. Very unique and original.
Book T: Exodus – Ocean waves fade in for the intro of this epic song. The violins in this song sound so good. A clean electric guitar enters playing with slap-back delay to give it a very watery sound. It maintains this sound throughout, and ends abruptly. This stop is almost funny, as the next track we hear is…
Hypostasis of the Archons – Ahhh, yes, the death metal returns, but this time with a more grindcore approach. This one opens up with another drum fill and we enter a rather Patton-esque section (pardon the frequent Bungle comparisons) which consists of distorted vocal noises over a fast drumbeat, and then a frenzied guitar fill signals the next part. This part, however, sounds like a complete rip-off of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s When Good Dogs Do Bad Things. Not that that’s a bad thing, it just shows that Patton has rubbed off on them a great deal. The song has stop-start rhythm, and it is constantly changing. Hypostasis contains the best guitar work on the album, but it’s again flawed by bad production as the guitar’s sound just does not sound full. The issue doesn’t detract from the album much, but it is somewhat annoying to me. Nonetheless, it’s a great, fun, psychotic song.
The Electrotheonic Grail Dove – I don’t hesitate to call this one filler. It’s just a jazzy bass line with sporadic piano and drums playing over it. Just skip over it.
The 3 (Afghan Song) – As the name suggests, this song returns to the Middle-Eastern folk style. The majority of the song is backed by distorted electric guitar. For once, the bass is very eminent here (don’t count Electrotheonic, of course). For the most part, this song sounds like a slower continuation of The 4. The ending is very cool as the chugging guitar takes over the song. It’s one of my least favorite songs on the album, but it’s not bad.
DJ Revisionist – Indian electronica is the easiest way to describe this track. The beginning is very folk-ish like the last track until we hit a small section of random disc-scratching and other strange sounds that one might hear on Radiohead’s Amnesiac. After this part is another sequence of seemingly random instrumental seizures, and during this you hear a very small Russian sounding tune foreshadowing a track to come, and then the track flows into a section of ambience. The song then ends on that same Russian part followed, of course, by haphazard turntables. There’s no such thing as a definite ending on this album. Another one of my least favorites due to the minutes of unorganized musicianship.
Anthropomorphosis: Boxleitner – Finally, a break from mediocrity. This song makes excellent use of electronics, making it one of the most atmospheric songs on the album. The ambience of wind blowing begins the track, and then some dissonant chords are played on a couple of synths. The song changes from dim to jumpy around the minute mark, and I love the simple keyboard part. Dark guitar mingles with the sounds and creates the sinister feel once again. Synth, keyboard, guitar, and a strange folk instrument all get their shares of lead playing. The drums keep a tribal feel flowing through its entirety.
Welcome To The Theatron Animatronique – Here’s the Russian tune that was foreshadowed by DJ Revisionist. The main instrument of choice is once again the keyboard, which is only accompanied by drums and occasional delayed guitar throughout the song. The Russian chants make this a fun listen, but other than that, this song is boring. It being one of the longest songs at 5:11 doesn’t help either. If one or two minutes were cut off and the singing started sooner, it would be much better. This song doesn’t work well as a closer either, and should probably be switched with Book T: Exodus.
Now here’s a quick summary of the good and the bad of Book of Horizons.
Spans many genres, with unique cross-genres that keep the album from growing tedious
The rarely-used death vocals
The production is excellent for the most part
Vocals are not used enough, as they are only seen on Exterminating Angel, Hypostasis of the Archons, and Welcome To The Theatron Animatronique (with the exception of indistinguishable shrieks and moans).
The second half doesn’t match up to the first.
Cohesion sometimes falters.
Guitar production on the metal songs.
Most of the band members, but Spruance has a cool beard.
Recommended Tracks: Exterminating Angel, Book T: Exodus, The Exile, On The Wings Of The Haoma, Hypostasis of the Archons
Secret Chiefs 3 Are…
Clinton "Bar" McKinnon
Thank you for reading my first review!