(by David E. Gehlke)
(photography by Kaosthrone)
Don’t look now, but there’s a very strong current of melodic black metal coming your way, ready to dice and slice the over-abundance of basement and primitive BM. In a year already boasting Watain’s near-flawless Sworn To The Dark and Graveworm’s surprisingly potent Collateral Defect, Germany’s Secrets Of The Moon round out the trifecta of stellar melodic BM releases with their third full-length, Antithesis.
Perhaps not as overtly melodic as Watain or even classic Dissection, Secrets Of The Moon make their living with traditional songwriting passages that take cues more from early ‘90s death metal, resulting in a memorable, accessible cacophony of swirling guitar harmonies, drawn-out and mesmerizing clean-channel guitar passages, the scathing vocal attack of mainman sG. Antithesis is all that and more — calm and concerted in the right spots, raw and raging when it needs to be. Such a balance in the BM realm is rarely, if ever, struck.
Behind the whirlwind of emotion and conviction, lies an extensive philosophical approach, something the band takes a great amount of pride in. With prose rooted deeply in the humanistic and existential elements of Satanism, Secrets Of The Moon provide a wealth of deep, thought-provoking lyrical ideas throughout the 14-song affair that is Antithesis. Better yet, the band is without the gimmicks (i.e. corpsepaint), overt-image presentation (i.e. blood) and blind hero worship (i.e. modern-day Naglfar) that often threaten to bring the whole BM ship down entirely.
The following correspondence took place shortly after Secrets of the Moon completed their round of summer and festival live dates in 2007 and in true BM fashion; the answers are short and sweet…
Metal Maniacs: I noticed you have a spate of live dates coming up. Are live shows something of major importance to the band?
sG: Well, it is important for a metal band to present its material live onstage. We played a couple of festivals this summer and it turned out well. I don’t feel that comfortable on big stages but we were able to reach huge audiences.
MM: Some of your material is complex to a degree, so can black metal of your style be pulled off effectively live without making any sacrifices?
sG: We never make sacrifices. It’s just how we play our music and we feel satisfied with it. That’s the most important thing. We don’t like to be labeled.
MM: Previous albums like Carved In Stigmata Wounds and Stronghold were pretty solid, melodic black metal albums. With Antithesis however, the band seems to have stepped things up dynamically. What was the mindset going into the recording?
sG: We wanted to record a very dark and heavy sounding album. The songs are far more straightforward than previous records. The intensity has to grow on each of our releases. If our next record cannot hold the intensity of the previous ones, the band is at its end.
MM: How long did it take for these songs to come together?
sG: About one year and a half. A pretty intense time.
MM: The band has always been rooted in some serious lyrical topics that almost certainly relate to Satanism. What is the common lyrical thread for Antithesis?
sG: It is mainly about death in excelsis.
MM: Your lyrical approach to Satanism has always been convincing and thoughtful. How thorough is your knowledge of the black arts?
sG: Satanism has always been of major importance in my life but my private life is not something that I want to reflect with this band. I don’t want to preach. Of course occult and Satanic topics always have an influence on my way of writing lyrics but my personal belief stays private.
MM: Production-wise, this is easily your best sounding album. Are you of the opinion that black metal needs to be heard in clarity in order to be successful? On the flip-side, would Secrets of the Moon be as convincing if you used primitive production methods?
sG: Not now. A production just has to fit to the music. Our music holds many details that’s why we are keen on a powerful and clear sound which has to be very dark in its approach.
MM: In terms of the actual songs, they have a lot of hooks, especially “Ordinance” which is probably the catchiest thing you’ve done. What was the motivation behind this song?
sG: “Ordinance” was the last song written for Antithesis. It was our intention to build a song on a riff that catches the listener after one single listen. Its way [catchier] than most of the other songs on the record but still, the song fits perfectly with whole aura of the album.
MM: “Ghost” is an imperial, almost triumphant number and is another strong mid-tempo song. How are you able to thrive in this [mid-tempo] style while so many of your contemporaries are preoccupied with being as fast as possible?
sG: It’s just what comes out of us. We’ve never been into playing as fast as possible. It just doesn’t hold any aggression. “Ghost” is a very strong song which can spread its atmosphere best when played live. It’s the most personal song on the record.
MM: “Lucifer Speaks” is the longest and most epic track on the album that seems that perpetuate itself with a bed of hypnotic and droning riffs. It also sounds like it’s the simplest song on the album. Would you agree?
sG: We wanted a very monumental and epic end to the record and we succeeded with “Lucifer Speaks.” It’s a hymn to the Light-bearer that I feel connected with a lot. Atmosphere and feeling is all in music. What else? Technical shit? It’s nothing we care for. We are quite ok musicians but we don’t need to show our technical skills to anyone.
MM: I’ve always appreciated the professional manner in which the band has portrayed itself. Why have you failed to succumb to the needless theatrics that so many other BM bands fall prey to?
sG: We are just bored of it. We want Secrets of the Moon to be as pure, human and even assailable as possible.
MM: Germany is not known for black metal. What drew you to this style and do you think because you are so geographically isolated, it gives you a chance to be more unique?
sG: No, Germany has always been copycat country that’s why it is very difficult for us to get any attention. I guess we would be more known if we hailed from a Scandinavian country. But it’s ok. We’ve learned a lot from it and the stony path is surely the path we want to go.
MM: There are some parallels to yourselves and Dissection. What do you think of the late Jon Nödtveidt’s musical legacy?
sG: Parallels? I don’t see them… We’ve known the musicians in Dissection for years but they’ve never been an influence for us. I really like Storm of the Light’s Bane though. It’s one of the best dark metal albums ever released. But this music in general rarely has any meaning in my way of writing.