Hold Your Breath, We’re Going In
One of the most inspiring things about being a music fan is finding a certain artist that never stops trying to evolve. For most artists you can be more than content knowing they will nicely fill out the cracks and crevices of their particular style or genre with little aberration. It’s reassuring to have no surprises about what a new AC/DC record will sound like. Trey Spruance, on the other hand, has flowered masterfully into the role of that rare ever-evolving artist, and his side project turned full time band Secret Chiefs 3’s new album Book of Horizons is shockingly good.
As Secret Chiefs 3 progressed the band increasingly harnessed a mesh of Electronic meets Folk meets Middle Eastern meets Metal meets Swing Pop. Before, in previous albums, like Trey’s original band Mr. Bungle, the styles were always blended and mixed. Book of Horizons (the first part of a three part mega-album called Book of Truth) is a splintered and more precise approach to these diverse styles. As part of the overall concept, Spruance has concocted seven different band “identities” that are all still Secret Chiefs 3. Six of them handle a couple songs a piece on this record: Forms, Ishraqiyun, Traditionalists, The Electromagnetic Azoth, Holy Vehm and UR.
Holy Vehm is credited with the blast beat death metal songs “Exterminating Angel” and “Hypostasis of the Archons” while Ishraqiyun handles the middle eastern string instrument dance hall romps on “The 3” and “The 4 (The Great Ishraqi Sun)”. As these identities unveil the album an evocative auditory feast unfurls. Book of Horizons is a marvel of musical precision, Spruance deftly leads this production heavy juggernaut through territory both painfully intriguing (the noise inflected sound design of the Traditionalists’ tracks) and breathtaking (the simplistic contrapuntal melodies at the end of Electromagnetic Azoth’s “DJ Revisionist”).
Somehow through all this the album flows near seamlessly from song to song with an emanating sense of cinematic grandeur. Trey Spruance is in control of his artistic vision the way almost no musical talent of this generation has come even close to. When vocals are used they demand attention and the melodies swarm back and forth building off each other. The scariest thing is this is only part one of three and a seventh as yet unnamed identity doesn’t even make an appearance on this record. An overwhelming candidate for album of the year.