As a rule of thumb, bands that include any form of the word ‘sky’ are avoided as experience has dictated that many end up being “risecore” quality bullshit metal with high school quality lyrics about played-out emotional dramas that no one gives two shits about. For whatever reason, Secrets of the Sky was given a chance despite the name and destroyed all expectations of being something worthless. Secrets of the Sky are a five-piece melodic death/doom band so very not “risecore” coming out of Oakland, California. On Metal Archives, they’re listed as black/doom but as soon as you’re done with the first playthrough of To Sail Black Waters, the only real black element of the band is the vocalist’s snarling qualities and perhaps menacing atmosphere.
The album starts off right with “Winter” which wastes no time impressing upon the listener their musicianship. The sound is heavy and employs groovy but somehow doom-angst chords. A lot of doom bands fuck up with generic riffs but these guys got it right and they’re memorable and catchy. “Winter” doesn’t linger anywhere with any particular piece of the song making it an exciting track. The end totally kicks up the notch out of nowhere and gets you bumping your head while staying heavy and melodic. The second track, “Decline” which is the song they chose to make a music video out of, doesn’t disappoint as well. The vocalist alternates between black, doom, and clean which are all impressive and retain great clarity throughout. There’s a moment during the cleans where he layers his vocals in a way reminiscent of Jesu’s Heartache which is so cool. The synth is a tad too heavy/power metal-y during the first 2 1/2 minutes but it isn’t enough to add negatively to the song. This is also the only real case where the synths can be nitpicked and overall add greatly to the atmosphere of the album.
What is probably the most emotionally powerful part of each song is the melodic interlude they have that greatly accompanies the non-cheesy lyrics. “Sunrise” is the third and shortest track on To Sail Black Waters. The bass guitar here is thick and adds to the heaviness of the overall sound. The drummer also does a fine job staying progressive fighting the trend of doom drummers to be painfully boring. This is also the most melodic song on the album and does a good job being emotionally invoking. So far the album is a triple kill but the streak has been stopped with the last track, “Black Waters”. Unfortunately, it’s the most boring on the album and there are no particularly memorable moments other than where the vocalist whispers “I love the way you move inside of me – Lovely strangely who has all my trust.” To be honest, it’s kind of creepy and disconcerting. The complete lyrics are hard to find online but it probably makes sense in the grand scheme of the song but nonetheless, it is unsettling.
Secrets of the Sky have a winner on their hands with To Sail Black Waters. The production is top notch, simultaneously melodic and heavy all the while managing to be progressive and emotional. Other reviewers have compared Secrets of the Sky to Opeth and while it’s true in regards to the sheer heaviness of and quality of Opeth, it isn’t quite at the same peak of progressive but still holds its own. Also by the amount of reviews available, it seems like these guys will soon blow up into popularity so grab on while you can.