Review Summary: The final part of the powerful trio of albums by Blue Oyster Cult, it is no surprise why 'Secret Treaties' is widely hailed as much as it is. You're missing out on a lot if it isn't already in your record collection.
Before reviewing the significance of 'Secret Treaties' in BOC's career, let's see just how successful it has become. Melody Maker rated it 'Top Rock Album of all time' in 1975. Not bad. The album spent fourteen weeks in the charts, peaking at #53. That's not bad either. The album achieved Gold status in 1992. Not too bad...Wait what? Gold status? Christ, that's one hell of an achievement in itself, for an album that had been alive for almost two decades!
Of course, it's no surprise why 'Secret Treaties' is so successful and also why various fans and critics think it to be Blue Oyster Cult's career-defining record. First things first, at least four of its tracks- being mysterious opener 'Career of Evil', the somewhat lyrically disturbing 'Subhuman', the mischievous 'Harvester of Eyes' and outstandingly epic closer 'Astronomy'-are featured in every BOC 'best of' compilation you can find. Is it really any surprise though? The answer, if you have listened to and loved the band's first two albums, will be a resounding 'Of course not'.
Contextually and musically speaking, the band sounded on 'Tyranny and Mutation' as if they couldn't get any better. However, upon the arrival of 'Secret Treaties', this could not be further from the truth, for the music itself seems to have improved greatly, if at all possible. Guitars sound even heavier, the vocal range is much more developed, and the overall atmosphere of each song could send you safely to sleep at any given moment, what with all the mesmerizing sounds going on.
What stood out the most on 'Tyranny...' was the band's excellent use of keyboard-laden melodies and interludes with some interestingly groovy guitar work, and on 'Secret Treaties' it is guaranteed you won't be disappointed. The magnificent opening vibes of 'Career of Evil' give way to some well-handled guitar riffs that seem to have a magic of their own, and the rumbling aggression of 'Dominance and Submission' gives off a stunningly obscure effect upon the listener, with the title of the song almost being chanted by each member of the band alongside the driving guitar work of Eric Bloom and Donald Roeser.
The band have obviously had fun making this album, as evident on such fabulously eye-opening numbers as the war-obsessed 'ME 262' (an ode to the german air-plane of the same name) and the melodic yet still hard-hitting 'Flaming Telepaths'. 'ME 262' seems to have more in common with Deep Purple playing the fast-paced madness of 'Burn' than it does with the more blues-influenced anthems of ZZ Top, and 'Flaming Telepaths' gives off a mystical energy that could only be generated by BOC themselves. Even the keyboards, which admittedly sometimes don't quite hold out for long enough, still manage to add incomparably stunning effect to the vocal talents of Bloom, Bouchard and Roeser, this being a direct highlight of the band's overall sound within the 70's.
Many will have at least heard of the band's tendency to create some very creepy lyrics, and even if you never get to hear the music itself, the lyrics will generate a power all of their own just by reading them thoroughly. Simply put, everything about 'Secret Treaties' makes you hungry for more. And that, unfortunately, is part of the extremely minor problem with the album-it's short length. At 38 minutes, it seems as if the band couldn't wait to get back out on the road to tour the world or make another album, but this is just for personal preference. I respect the band for keeping it at this length, personally.
The final addition to what I call the 'Power trio' of BOC's first three albums is something of an absolute eye-opener. Even if the keyboard melodies and flourishes don't quite grasp your undivided attention, there is still plenty more within 'Secret Treaties' to enjoy. Fact is, if you understand how much effort and fun the band had put into the making of their third record, you will surely realise why it is hailed as the gem it is.