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Secret Chiefs 3 - Book of Souls - Folio A CD (album) cover


Secret Chiefs 3


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siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JRF/Canterbury, P Metal, Eclectic
5 stars You have to be a dedicated fan to follow the works of Trey Spruance and his ever eclectic SECRET CHIEFS 3 project which in 2007 official revealed itself to be the amalgamation of seven satellite bands (The Electromagnetic Azoth, UR, Ishraqiyun, Traditionalists, Holy Vehm, FORMS, and NT Fan) but i am one of those hardcore fans so i relish the release of every album no matter which one of these satellite bands appears in the title along with some often the case unpronounceable title. For this pronounceable one BOOK OF SOULS: FOLIO A (Yes, this did come out before the 2015 Iron Maiden album of the same title), the seventh official album by SC3 we actually get more of a compilation album that features two tracks from all of these satellite bands except Holy Vehm and NT Fan. Some of these tracks are remade, some had been played live before release and some are totally new, however it is the perfect flow from beginning to end that makes this one of my favorite SC3 releases.

What this compilation business basically means is an even more eclectic album than usual for Mr Spruance and company for despite every track clearly sounding like SC3 in full regalia, the emphasis on different aspects of Spruance's musical palette shines through making a rather nice flow of musical ideas from beginning to end which include all the usual SC3 suspects such as surf rock, Persian and Arab folk, metal, soundtrack and electronic music as well as some other ideas ranging from tango to the usual Rock In Opposition and Avant Prog and classical angular rhythms always on display. There are 11 musicians on board with this one hosting instruments that include guitar, bass, drums, bassoon, oboe, english horn, flute, cello, contrabass, various ethnic percussion, harp, violin, viola and a surprise cameo vocal appearance on "La Chanson de Jacky" by Spruance's long time partner in crime Mike Patton from Mr. Bungle and Faith No More.

BOOK OF SOULS: FOLIO A is actually a collection of tracks that took over a decade to create and really delves into the extreme musical possibilities of all the types of music involved in its depths. For example, the Arabic and Persian influences are something that should have emerged from those respective cultures but SC3 seems to have found a knack for reinventing traditional musics from around the world by mixing and melding with the best production techniques showcasing every little detail into a glorious organic and powerful musical experience. There is literally no one who sounds like this band and BOOK OF SOULS: FOLIO A is a very nice de luxe and diverse offering of all the different ways Spruance has evolved this band into a musical octopus leaving no influential rock unturned.

All i can say is that this album is brilliant. It reflects the painstaking process and perfectionist tendencies of Trey Spruance over a decade time span leaving no t's uncrossed and no i's undotted. Everything about this album is perfect for my ears. The production is top-notch state of the art incredible and the music resides in some mysterious parallel universe that feels somewhat familiar but equally as alien as if it has been beamed across the cosmos from Alpha Centauri. While the musical scales that incorporate the various ethnic and Western influences are clearly recognizable, SC3 continues their abilities to weave this new musical tapestry into an ever more complex quiltage of sonic possibilities and delivers a successful outcome every time. This is the album where i started visualizing SC3's music as a giant musical sand worm wriggling about like the one on the movie "Dune" that makes its way around through the sandy deserts and with each move retains enough familiar vibrations to always be identifiable as the source but with each new wriggling displays a new variation in as many ways as chemical elements can combine to create more complex molecules. Music is a sort of sonic chemistry and Spruance really has mastered this alchemy of sound.

This album is almost exclusively instrumental as are most SC3 albums and while this Dune worm wriggles from one avant-garde angular rhythm to another throughout the album there does lurk one major surprise when suddenly the listener is slapped in the face by the most unlikely type of track they could encounter. When the listener gets to the eleventh track the sudden burst of a Jacques Brel cover "La Chanson de Jacky" with Mike Patton making a cameo is a true shock as if Barry Manilow came out and played "Copacabana" at a death metal concert, yet somehow, in some way, it all works but it is true that anyone who enjoys SC3 albums are already of an eclectic nature so after the initial WTF wears off it's all just par for the course of this experimental band that never fails to surprise. This is one of my absolute favorite albums of the so-called "satellite band" years and i can listen to this one over and over and over again in total admiration of how it all just flows from one track to the next. It should be mentioned that odd numbered tracks are the long fully developed tracks while the even ones are short little fluffers if you will for the following numbers. With music this complex, yet catchy and ever so captivating every time i listen to it always having my mind blown, i can give this glimpse of heaven no less than 5 stars.

Report this review (#1547834)
Posted Sunday, April 3, 2016 | Review Permalink
4 stars Secret Chiefs 3's albums are generally rather consistent, Trey Spruance keeping things fresh by shifting quickly between styles (each of the component "satellite bands" representing a different genre). As such, Book of Souls is more or less more of the same, with some warped muzak for imaginary TV stations and corporations woven through the proceedings.

The big news here, mind, is that Mike Patton joins on vocals on one song, marking the first time Mike and Trey have reunited in the studio since the end of Mr Bungle. This is for La Chanson de Jacky, a piece originally by the great Jacques Brel and reinterpreted in an English-language version by Scott Walker. Both Walker and Brel's versions of the song are blended together here and fed through a Secret Chiefs 3 filter - specifically, through the style of the satellite band Traditionalists, who play Goblin-esque material suitable for Italian B-movie soundtracks.

Pairing Patton with the Traditionalists is an inspired move - not only does he have the vocal chops to do Brel and Walker justice, but also his own musical interests and that of the Traditionalists clearly converge, seeing how the Fantomas project has revealed Patton's own fondness for movie soundtracks. Will we see more Patton with the Secret Chiefs? Probably not much - were he to do a full album with Trey they might as well bite the bullet and make it a Mr Bungle reunion, after all - but hopefully we'll see more guest spots from him in the future, particularly where the Traditionalists are concerned.

Report this review (#1702885)
Posted Friday, March 17, 2017 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars This is the second part of Secret Chief 3's trilogy 'Book of Truth' (the first being 'Book of Horizons' from 2004), 'Book of Souls: Folio A' was released in 2013, and is the 7th album released by the band. Just like 'Book of Horizons', all of the tracks on this release are credited to the satellite bands that record under SE3's name, of which there are 7. Only 5 of those bands are represented on this album, the ones that are missing are 'Holy Vehm' and 'NT Fan'. The latter was also missing on 'Horizons', but this time 'Holy Vehm' was left off, which is fine because they were the ones that sounded out of place the most on 'Horizons' with their death metal sound, and the growling vocals are not that appealing to me, even though that album was a masterpiece. The heavy guitars are spread out much more evenly on this release because of that. Trey Spruance (formerly from Mr. Bungle) still heads over all of the satellite bands.

So, the question is, is this album still as great as 'Book M' and 'Book of Horizons'? Well, that is what we are going to find out. 'Balance of the 19' (Ishraqiyan) has a quirky melody inspired from Persian and Afghan influence with both traditional and modern instrumentation. Percussion is tricky and guitars become more intense in the middle section while the traditional instruments flutter around them. A simple melody becomes complex with the odd timing.

'Nova IHVH' is credited to Secret Chief 3 (as are, from this point on, every other track on the album, which act as intermediary, short tracks), and sounds like a radio station jingle that morphs into heavy metal and back in twenty seconds. Quite funny actually. 'Potestas Clavium' (The Electromagnetic Azoth) has a marching band rhythm with brass instruments, and accordion, chimes and heavy, distorted, electric guitar power chords. This track probably encompasses the sound of all of the satellite bands in one track. It's quite a cavalcade of musical styles with little breaks of experimentalism. 'Post-Identity Hour' this one sounds like a jingle from a news program and then changes several times, almost like scanning through radio stations for the first half, and then settling into an orchestral, romantic style.

'Personae: Halloween' (UR) is a cover of the music from John Carpenter's movie 'Halloween'. Starting out with a catchy rhythm playing under the spooky movie themes, this one rolls along quite smoothly. The track utilizes orchestra, chimes, synth and heavy guitars. Very cool. 'Utopian Weekly Update' is another radio jingle style conglomeration of wackiness.

'Scorched Earth Saturnalia' (FORMS) is the centerpiece of the album and the longest track at over 7 minutes. It starts with a nice piano solo which is joined by some nice expansive sounds from other instruments. This goes into a fast paced section brought in with a cello and lots of piano pounding with many other style changes that still keep with the darker feel of this track. The track is avant-prog, no doubt, yet it is still surprisingly accessible, if you don't mind the ever changing themes (some you'll recognize) and styles that are all melded together by a mysterious and ominous feel. There is another quick 6 second interlude track called 'Full Spectrum Anamnesis' made up of various ascending electronic tones, which is followed by 'Drive' (UR). Again, we get an orchestral sound, but the tones are shifted around throughout. This makes for some interesting effects along with the micro-tuned guitars. This track is a perfect example of avant garde techniques being used on a track that comes across as quite accessible and cinematic which creates a nice and unique atmosphere. Then there is another quicky called 'Barzakh ID Markers' which sounds like a bunch of radio announcement music all jumbled together into 44 seconds.

'La Chanson de Jacky' (Traditionalists) features Mike Patton on vocals in both English and French. The song has a dramatic fast lounge singer jazz sound with a European sound, sort of like an over the top version of 'Conquistador'. The music is mostly orchestral. 'Toy Soldier's Frontline Report' is an avant garde march tune. 'Tistrya' (Ishranqiyan) again mixes electronics, traditional and modern instruments to create another interesting middle-Eastern dance with some very tricky rhythms and percussion patterns with some spots that get quite intense and others that are soft.

As I mentioned, this album is a bit more 'evened out' compared to 'Book of Horizons' in that it spreads out the heavier parts among the tracks instead of having them condensed into a few tracks. Other than that, and the fact that Mike Patton actually participates on one track, this album stays pretty much on par with the first part of the trilogy. As of yet, there hasn't been a third part added, but seeing as it took almost 10 years for the 2nd part, it might still be a while. Overall, this album contains the same things you loved about 'Horizons' but things do not stand out as much, probably because it is similar. Where 'Horizons' got a 5 star rating which included ingenuity, this one gets 4 because, while it is still awesome, it is similar. This album should still not be ignored however. And if you hear it first, then to you it will be a 5 star album.

Report this review (#2108803)
Posted Wednesday, December 19, 2018 | Review Permalink

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