Secrets of the Sky

Eschewing the standard tropes of the “bigger, louder, faster, heavier, etc” second album adjectives that most metal bands embrace, Secrets of the Sky have written an album that peaks and wanes with life, character, mood, melody, and dissonance. Pathways is an album through and through with segues that give the listener the feeling of arriving at each song by means of metaphorical travel or literal footsteps through storm ridden corridors. Each song is a living and breathing entity that explores many facets of metal and in the structure is a journey that rewards with each traversal.

Hailing from a phenomenal city of metal (Oakland), Secrets of the Sky have blown definition out of the water with this, their second album. There’s been a very large dose of melody added to their sound but also a progression in sound and structure. Pathways is hard to categorize without misrepresenting what is actually there. There’s several shades of vocals throughout the album; blackened croaks, death metal growls that are not wholly undiscernable, hard rock-ish cleans (I hate using that term but there’s nothing else that really comes to mind), and some occasional spoken word/whispering (which I’ve never really cared for but it is what it is). On the musical side, there’s a sense of doom throughout the music; not only in style but also in feeling. It’s not a consistently plodding pace but it’s never a overly aggressive. Pallbearer’s Foundations of Burden wouldn’t be out of place in terms of kinship. There’s seems to be more melodic leads than riffs being bandied about with a rhythm section that stabilizes the ever present cloud of meloncholy and dread that permeates the whole listen.

Although there are thirteen tracks on the album, six of them are actual songs with the other seven being segues that actually help the album flow rather than hinder. “Three Swords” is a journey through meloncholic dark metal with some blackened screeches usurping the consistent melody and somber tone. The song never gets too heavy in a distorted matter but there is a grey, oppresive cloud that permeates throughout. “Angel in Vines” starts out with the guitars playing a harmonious riff with near perfect rhythmic accents. The vocals are very harsh at first but then a clean croon pairs with an almost Type O Negative keyboard part that helps set the mood. It’s a dual faced song that spends most of the time in the harsher realm. One could almost classify this as a single but the song, truthfully, doesn’t travel very far from the boundaries it sets for itself. There’s a great riff that is bolstered by a decent “chorus” but not enough to distinguish itself from the rest of the songs. It succeeds in it’s place on the album and helps the ebb-and-flow in a very thorough manner but there’s not much that sets it apart from the rest of the pack.”Another Light” follows as almost an outro from the previous track, It’s all guitar with clean singing. It’s a polarizing track for me because as a standalone track, it doesn’t do anything. The vocals are good and the guitar is there to do it’s job but it just doesn’t do anything other than just be there. It fits in the grand scheme of things but one would be remiss in calling this an actual song. It acts as more of a segue, if one were to be honest.

Speaking of segues, if you count the last song as what it really is, then there are three between the last (true) song and the next one, “Garden of Prayers”. It very much plays suitor to “Angel in Vines” in that it carries with it a heavy riff partnered with a melodic backing. The vocals are a little more on the death side in this track and the tempo maintains a medium pace paired with some …And Justice For All-esque clean parts and some croons that kind of similar to Peter Steele in his highest octave from the October Rust album. “Fosforos” is, without a doubt, the heaviest track on the album. All blackened screeches, heavy riffs, and some mid-paced double bass/tom work. It is also the catchiest song on the album in that it carries with it a groove that betrays the rest of the album. The pace and groove lets go towards the backend of the song. “Eternal Wolves” follows another segue and it is a very fair representation of this album on a whole. The vocals are equal parts blackened shrieks and death growls, the guitars are harmonious and riff laden whilst the rhythm section carries the song through it’s ever shifting tendencies. It’s a very moody piece that certainly ends this already stellar album on a high note.

Pathways is not only a great second album but it is a phenomenal release that certainly deserves to be on best-of lists when the time comes to compile them. It’s a timeless listen that doesn’t adhere to standards or modern categorization. If this is what they can give us on only their sophmore release, I will certainly be looking forward to subsequent albums because they, in my opinion, have hit the proverbial ball out of the park.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Chris S
August 6th, 2015


  1. Commented by: Luke_22

    Solid follow-up. A bit unerwhelmed initially but it has quickly grown on me and is a nice progression from the excellent debut.Personally I think the interludes are a tad overdone but some are also quite effective. Nice review.

  2. Commented by: ov3rm4n

    Hell yeah, To Sail Black Waters was amazing. Can’t wait to get this. Great review Chris!

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