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Secret Chiefs 3 - Malkhut CD (album) cover

MALKHUT

Secret Chiefs 3

RIO/Avant-Prog


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siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars Trey Spruance launched his then side project SECRET CHIEFS 3 all the way back in 1995 in the midst of the Mr Bungle years and has continued to steer this unique collective of musicians into exciting new arenas that have contributed to the evolution of this band's sound into a veritable smorgasbord effect that is so pure and refined that SC3 sounds as if it resonates from a long lost tradition that has found its way into the modern world at the time of some sort of spiritual awakening. Having long ago mastered the exquisite alchemy of disparate genres such as surf rock, Persian traditional, Arab folk music, Indian classical, death metal, electronica and spaghetti western styled soundtrack music, the SC3 culminated its sound on 2004's "Book of Horizons" before Spruance announced that the SC3 was actually seven satellite bands named Electromagnetic Azoth, UR, Ishraqiyun, Traditionalists, Holy Vehm, FORMS, and NT Fan.

Before SC3 jumped into the satellite band procession, the project joined ranks with none other than John Zorn as they performed compositions from Zorn's second Masada book, "The Book of Angels" with song titles representing characters from Jewish and Christian mythology and an introduction into a new genre into the world of SC3, that being klezmer. After what seemed like a one off, SC3 released three more albums under the guise of the satellite bands that ended with 2014's "Perichoresis" and then the band fell silent for several years with nothing to offer those who have become addictive to this unique band's sophisticated style of musical amalgamation of tones, timbres, tempos and magnificent genre blending mashups. While seemingly dropping off the face of the Earth, SC3 were in fact working hard on the next Zorn collaboration in the form of an entire album that appeared on the 11-album installation of Zorn's "Masada Book Three - The Book Beri'ah" which found the band in company with Sofia Rei & JC Maillard, Cleric, Spike Orchestra, Julian Lage / Gyan Riley, Abraxas, Klezmerson, Gnostic Trio, Zion80, Banquet of the Spirits, Craig Taborn and Vadim Neselovskyi.

The whopping 11-album set was released on 9 March 2018 as album #10 of the massive collaborative effort and although officially a part of the SC3 canon, was unavailable for any sort of listening pleasure outside of plopping down a small fortune to obtain the entire box set of music, which is probably not a bad thing have you, but i have not been willing to take the plunge so despite SC3 ranking high on my favorite bands list i just had to wait it out and see if someday perhaps they would release it as an individual album. Well 18 October 2019 was that day and THE BOOK OF BERI'AH VOL 10 - MALKHUT was finally released and as the album cover art of the sefirot which represents the concepts from the Jewish esoteric knowledge of the Kabbalah, SC3 emerge from its slumber only to add weave Jewish sounds to its already eclectic musical palette without sacrificing any of the sounds that came before except for perhaps the lesser sounds of the more extreme metal sounds found on earlier albums. As far as i am aware, SC3 is one of the few bands to successfully find a truce between Arabic folk music and Jewish traditional klezmer and make it sound as natural as an organic centuries long musical style.

For this album, SECRET CHIEFS 3 consists of Trey Spruance (guitars, clavinet, kinnor, analog synth pads, theater organ, extra percussion, nevel, glockenspiel, sound fx), Eyvind Kang (violin, viola), Ches Smith (congas, vibes, shakers, dumbek), Matt Lebofsky (piano, elec. piano, hammond and farfisa organ, moog), Kenny Grohowski (drums), Shanir Blumenkranz (bass), Jason Schimmel (guitar) and Ryan Parrish (kaval) who weave an intricate display of progressive fusion sounds that clearly reside in the SC3 universe and the band continues the ever growing complexities that have continued to evolve ever so slightly on every album since the debut "First Grand Constitution and Bylaws" all the way back in 1996. So in that respect, one can pretty much expect a continuation form 2014's "Ishaqiyun" only with the addition of klezmer and Jewish traditional sounds tucked into the mix albeit with a retro review of earlier SC3 albums.

As always, SC3 scores in finding the perfect balance between timeless intricate melodies and tight knit grooves with bursts of progressive angularities and heavy rock bombast but for the most part the band wends and winds through an intricate fusion of Arabic and Jewish traditional sounds although the surf rock, electronica and other sounds are still present although providing a subordinate role. There are plenty of those parallel riffs that harken to previous albums but teased out into new directions. The album is perhaps the most traditional sounding from the band's pre-satellite band days with those precise keyboard stabs punctuated by Middle Eastern grooves, tasty guitar workouts, electronic atmospheres all dressed up in an epic spaghetti western soundtrack grandiosity. For those who are true fans of the SC3 and have been with them since the beginning, this will be a nice overview of the band's entire existence without too much new thrown in save the scant progressive rock anomalies such as the Goblin sounding keyboards of "Chitzonuyut" and the heavier emphasis on Jewish themes and rhythms.

Once again the SECRET CHIEFS 3 project has generated a mesmerizing or should i say "klezmerizing" musical score that evokes an epic traditional musical style of some esoteric mystery school tribe that dropped out of the world and continued underground for millennia before finally bringing its unique musical mysteries to the world's consciousness. This album like almost every other is flawlessly designed and will delight SC3 fans for its attention to detail, addictive melodic and rhythmic flow and transcendental evocations. The band shows no sign of decline and musically speaking has never sounded better. Perhaps if i had any gripe about MALKHUT is that it is not daring enough in its explorative nature. It seems to simmer peacefully in a safe zone that never adds any startling detours such as the band's earlier explorations into death metal and more extreme musical styles but given this was designed to work as a part of a much larger musical whole, it probably needed to exist in harmony with the intent of Zorn's musical vision amongst friends who also contributed entire album's worth of material. I have to say, very rarely do i hear music this good and SC3's amazing consistency is exactly why they reside in my top 10 bands of all time.

4.5 but too good not to round up

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Posted Tuesday, January 21, 2020 | Review Permalink

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