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Secret Chiefs 3 - Xaphan - Book Of Angels, Vol. 9 CD (album) cover


Secret Chiefs 3



4.27 | 41 ratings

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5 stars Secret Chiefs 3 (SC3) is the brainchild of 3 members of the now defunct "Mr. Bungle", and many people have made the mistake of calling SC3 "Mr. Bungle without Mike Patton" but this is not an accurate comparison. SC3 has been a conglomeration of musicians of whom Troy Spruance has been a constant member of. Typically, the band line-up depends on the style of music Spruance wants to create, and because of these differing line-ups, there are 7 satellite bands that have played under the name SC3. On some of their releases, the band names are acknowledged. On this album, "Xaphan ? The Book of Angels, Vol. 9", this is not the case, everything is strictly credited to SC3. This album features music which is inspired by one style of music, which is Klezmer based and the music is composed by none other than John Zorn.

So, I am sure many questions come up from this first paragraph like what is Klezmer music, who is John Zorn, and why is this album designated as Volume 9? Without going into too much detail, because some of you may already know the answers to these questions, and there is plenty of information on the internet about these subjects, I will try to briefly explain.

Klezmer music is a musical tradition of a certain sect of Jewish people from Eastern Europe. That is the style of music this album is based upon. The style uses several different modes of their own which are similar to the musical scales that most of us are familiar with, but they call them different names. It also uses interesting vocal sounds as part of the lyrical content including laughing, sobbing and so on.

John Zorn, who is also featured on the Prog-Archives site, has quite an extensive discography consisting of his compositions and performances and has worked with many different artists. One of his projects is called the Masada project, which is quite a huge project, and "The Book of Angels" is a set of around 300 compositions that he wrote at the end of 2004. All of these compositions are available on 19 volumes, each volume is performed and recorded by a single artist/band, and in this case, Volume 9, which is called "Xaphan" is performed by Secret Chiefs 3. Xaphan is one of the fallen angels that conspired with Satan and set heaven on fire. As in all of the volumes, all of the track titles are named after characters in Jewish and Christian mythology.

Ok, so I hope that clears everything up about the background of this album and what it is all about. And no, it is not part of the "Book of Souls" trilogy that SC3 has partially released. I know it's so hard to keep track of all of these projects, but if you want to really be confused, try to keep track of the immense number of projects that John Zorn has done. Ok now on with the review of this album.

"Sheburiel" is the name of the chief of the angels that guard the 3rd hall of the 7 celestial halls. Those who are familiar with SC3's music will know that you can expect traditional and modern instruments are going to be involved, including electronica and orchestra. All stops are open on this track with several flavors and textures creating a masterpiece of musical sound. Overall, the track is a bit abrasive in places, as there is a bit of a metallic feel, but be aware that things do change quickly in SC3s music. There is even a slight lounge jazz feel that permeates the track through the percussion, with the European and mid-Eastern influences that are evident in a lot of their music, even with bits of surf rock thrown in.

"Akramachamarei" is a master of the heavenly firmaments. This track is a bit snappier with a mix of orchestral flair, surf guitar and some traditional string instrument among other things. The setting is kind of a rhumba sound which has a tango part thrown in just to keep you guessing. Later some heavy guitars give some intensity to the middle section.

"Shoel" is another of the angel guardians in the 7 celestial halls. This one starts out with some hand drums and other percussion. A fast bass line and a processed muted guitar sound like a futuristic Bond movie which quickly moves to a sultry European sound with an accordion, or at least with that effect. But overall, this one is driven with organ and bass and later a funky guitar.

"Barakiel" has dominian over lightening and can be invoked when you need luck. This is a slower track starting out with an acoustic string instrument, an electronic vocal effect, atmospheric sustained guitar, and an auto-harp. Later, it switches to a lush orchestral sound. Very nice.

"Bezriel" is a name I couldn't find any information on. The track is more avant jazz based with an improvised keyboard solo and solos with other traditional instruments with heavy guitars used to mark the interludes between solos.

"Kemuel" is the leader of the 1200 angels of destruction. According to legene, he was also destroyed by Moses. This one has a great cinematic sound for a while, but then goes into a wild violin solo, which could be processed because there gets to be some really awesome, but alien sounds. Later it goes into a real quirky micro-guitar solo, which sounds like the foundation of the track is playing a different meter than the solo.

"Labbiel" was originally named Raphael and was blessed because he complied with God's command in the creation of man. This track has some wordless vocal work done by "Anonymous 13" a female vocalist who works with SC3 on several of their albums. There is a fast paced guitar solo in there too before more intense guitars come in.

"Asron" is one of the guard to the gates of the east wind. This track has a distinct mid-Eastern vibe to it with traditional instruments carrying the melody, which later gets taken over by an acoustic guitar giving it a more Spanish flavor.

"Balberith" is a fallen angel who according to a priest possessed a nun in 1612. There is a persistent cowbell on this one at first, but when things continue to intensify, it gets swallowed up in the percussion. This one leans more towards jazz improvisation and grows more intense towards the end.

"Omael" is an angel that multiplies species, makes races and influences chemists. This track is fast paces and has some quirky traditional instruments taking over the melody.

"Hamaya" is a ministering angel. This track is quite beautiful starting with a vocal choir and moving on to a lush orchestra which is later led by a very interesting sounding traditional instrument and some vocal effects. Very cinematic and dramatic as it moves on and later turns into a drone as it ends. Another beautiful track.

This album is one of SC3's more consistent albums since the inspiration comes from a single source instead of so many, yet it is still innovative, stretching the boundaries of it's source and always changing and morphing within a single track. Something does have to be said of the consistency in this album however, which strengthens the focus and actually turns the album into a more satisfying experience. Just like all of the other SC3 albums I have heard, the music is unbelievable and difficult to describe, so its best to listen for yourself, but this music is so dynamic and versatile, that even if it centers on one overall style for inspiration, it still seems so varied, but more focused as a whole. It is hard to believe, but this results in another 5 star album which improves even on the last 5 star album. It does that through being innovative and not relying on the greatness of the last album to simply make a copy. Simply breathtaking in many places, surprisingly accessible yet challenging at the same time.

TCat | 5/5 |


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