Celestial Season
The Secret Teachings

I don’t think there is any argument when it comes to the upper pantheons of early/mid 90s doom ( the gothic/funeral doom style). The holy British trinity of My Dying Bride, Anathema and Paradise Lost are the clear top acts of the style and era- but what bout that slightly below elite, second tier- ( who all copied the prior British legends, let’s be honest) who ya got? Morgion? Visceral Evisceration? Draconian? Esoteric? Funeral?

For me it’s The Netherlands’ Celestial Season. Their first two albums, and in particular 1995s Solar Lovers, remain near classics ( I’d put “Decameron” and the band’s cover of Ultravox’s “Vienna” up there as two of the greatest songs ever in the genre/era). But alas, like many bands in the 90s, the band shifted into a different more commercial, stoner rock, psychedelic style (which they admittedly flirted with on Solar Lovers) with subsequent albums Orange, Chrome and Lunchbox Dialogues (and in retrospect going back and listening to these albums is one of the more jarring disappointing,  under the radar style shifts of the time). And then the band called it quits.

Well, as is all the rage, here is a reunion 20 years later, and as also the rage, the band (with largely original members) has mostly returned to their roots as The Secret Teachings recalls the Solar Lovers style of violin and cello flocked  melancholy and beautiful sadness.

It’s not a complete slam dunk comeback after a long hiatus say like Carcass or more recently Benediction, as the album is a bit uneven, the mix is a murky (intentionally maybe?), vocalist Stefan Ruiters still has a sort of semi growled, semi-spoken word pout, and there are a few moments of the band’s later era  psychedelia, and quite a bit of filler, but there are some superb moments of Solar Lovers era string-laden despondency to make it a moderate success.

And it’s these more rending, violin/cello heavy, throwback moments is where the album shines such as the 9 minute opening title track “The Secret Teachings of All Ages”, mournful “For Twisted Loveless”, personal favorite “Long Forlorn Tears”, with a truly classic 90s doom melody line, “Amor Fati”,  and a cover of Type O Negative‘s “Red Water”. But along with 3 ‘interludes’, and some weaker, more forgetful or psychedelic tracks (“They Saw it Come From the Sky”, “Lunar Child”- a follow up to “Solar Child”?, wasted closer “A Veil of Silence”) , there are only about half the tracks worth revisiting.

Still, the album largely erases the band late discography missteps (depending on how you view those albums of course), but still does nothing to elevate the band past that solid, second-tier status that they had 25 years ago. And Solar Lovers will still be the band’s highpoint.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
November 2nd, 2020

Comments

  1. Commented by: Dearoldblighty

    Very good review. But I would take just a bit of an issue with your list of second tier, ‘derivative’ bands. Neither Esoteric nor Funeral belong on that list, as they have little in common with either the other bands on the list or, indeed, the Peaceville 3, other than playing slow layered music in lengthy compositions


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