Review Summary: Rave partying with cobras under the Far East sun.
By the time Book M
was released, Mr. Bungle's co-founder and Secret Chiefs 3 mastermind, Trey Spruance, was already relieved from the creative pressure necessary to steam power the explosive squad led by Mike Patton. What began as the instrumentally pissed off version of a Mr. Bungle/Faith No More spawn that exists in an alternate plane where Patton and co. are making a career in the Turkish underground club circuit, quickly developed into a full-fledged idea that could only have been harvested in the boiling mind of someone like Spruance.
The Chiefs' debut was almost a bad taste joke. A collection of one-minute interludes that pushed the limits of rhyme and reason in a time where obsession with crossover and hodgepodges of music styles were the daily order. “Rap metal”,” death funk” and any other impossible combination between two extremes was probably born out of the exhaustion and general fatigue that reigned the 90s. And in Secret Chiefs 3's debut, First Grand Constitution and Bylaws
, Trey Spruance tried to do it all: Sound effects taken from a Looney Tunes episode gave way to a polka song, which at the same time evolved into a drone passage, which also morphed into a grunge tune promptly interrupted by what sounded like a pyromaniac trying to burn the studio. All this happened in a matter of 10 minutes.
The Second Grand Constitution and Bylaws
, commonly known as the Chiefs' second album took a milder approach. The senseless field recording anarchy and utter madness were toned down in favor of a more tamed trip. Genre bending was still the Chiefs' thing, it has always been, but in their sophomore release, the middle eastern psychedelia occupied most of the drawing board, allowing as expected for some [i]arabicore[i/] eruptions sprinkled throughout the album, as well as tracks that sounded like the Bollywood version of Twin Peaks' soundtrack.
Just before the millennia came to an end, and before the release of Book of M
, the Chiefs immortalized an incredible performance in San Francisco. It was released through Spruance's own label, Web of Mimicry, under the name Eyes of Flesh, Eyes of Flame
, and it exposed the core of what Secret Chiefs 3 was really made of: outstanding musicianship. This is important because the feel of that performance flowed beautifully into the project's third full length, defining the sound of Secret Chiefs 3 and outlining the areas in which the project would focus on in the future.
opens right away with the Persian tinged melodies characteristic of Spruance's gang but it sucker-punches the listener with a wild drum and bass outburst that shows that the Chiefs are still too busy doing the musical equivalent of the “fishstick” which, as some of you may know, it’s a very delicate state of mind. Their brand of Far East progcore peaks in compositions like "Vajra" or "Combat for the Angel", where Spruance's thunderous guitar tone marks the pace in perfect synch with intermittent snare strokes while a crying violin revolves and retorts up and down the poles of an Arabic scale. The instrumentation is rich, reminiscent of recent bands like Grails or Celtic music titans Kyla in tracks like opener “Knights of Damcar” or “Siege Perilous”. There are moments where the Chiefs veer towards harsh psychedelia (“Blaze of the Grail”) or even funk (“Safina”) but at the core, the Middle East influence is what dominates the Chiefs’ sound, either being the neck-breaking rave party of “Horsemen of the Invisible” or the third and last part of the Zulfiqar saga, a classic name in the Secret Chiefs book of lore.
is the pandora box of sounds that long time fans of Trey Spruance and his work in Mr. Bungle would expect. It is sonic extravaganza brewed and curated for even untrained ears to savor the exotic, the unfamiliar. Cobra enchanting melodies for those Indiana Jones of music in need of new treasures to discover. Whatever it is you are looking for, the Chiefs got you covered.