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BOOK M

Secret Chiefs 3

RIO/Avant-Prog


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Secret Chiefs 3 Book M album cover
4.42 | 88 ratings | 6 reviews | 40% 5 stars

Essential: a masterpiece of
progressive rock music


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Studio Album, released in 2001

Songs / Tracks Listing

- Observance Of The Word :
1. Knights Of Damcar (2:39)
2. Hagia Sophia (4:08)
3. Vajra (3:34)
4. Ship Of Fools (Stone Of Exile) (3:35)
- Engagement Of The Sword :
5. Horsemen Of The Invisible (3:36)
6. Combat For The Angel (6:03)
7. Zulfiqar III (5:14)
8. Siege Perilous (5:42)
9. Dolorous Stroke (2:35)
- Ritual Of The Cup :
10. Blaze Of The Grail (3:58)
11. Lapsit Exillis (1:38)
12. Lapis Baitulous (2:23)
13. Safina (9:35)

Total time 54:40

Line-up / Musicians

- Trey Spruance / electric, 12-string & microtonal guitars, bass, electric sitar, baglama, organ, electric piano, keyboards, sampler, programming, electronics, tar drum, dumbek, zither, trumpet
- Eyvind Kang / violin (3,5-7,10,13), cello (7)
- Tim Smolens / bass (6), contrabass (1,4,11), cello (1,11,12)
- Danny Heifetz / drums (3,5,6,9,10,13), dumbek (1,4,11,12), riq (4,11,12), zils (5,11,12)
- William Winant / concert toms (5), frame drum & cymbals & bass drum (8), zils (11), ankle bells (12)

With:
- Bär McKinnon / saxophone (10,13)
- Timb Harris / violin (1,8,11), viola (8)
- Fatima Khanoam / santur (1,4,11)
- Jason Schimmell / cumbus mandolin & acoustic guitar (4)
- Shamou / darbuka & riq (1,4)

Releases information

Artwork: Mari Kono

CD Web Of Mimicry ‎- WoM 006 (2001, US)

Thanks to silentman for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Mimicry 2001
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SECRET CHIEFS 3 Book M ratings distribution


4.42
(88 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(40%)
40%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
33%
Good, but non-essential (14%)
14%
Collectors/fans only (9%)
9%
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)
5%

SECRET CHIEFS 3 Book M reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by frippism
COLLABORATOR RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
5 stars I think that as an Israeli progressive music fan it is my duty to be as close minded and judgmental of Middle Eastern music as possible. The Israeli Middle Eastern music scene is... SO... BAAAAAD, that nothing but only Korean pop succeed to reach it's levels of baditude.

When first listening to Secret Chiefs 3, I was then turned off from the general Middle Eastern flavor here (which is very strong), yet I was really interested in the doing of these a-people, because it was all very different than anything I've heard. And in the end Secret Chiefs 3 really just taught me what many avant and prog bands taught me: genres are tools, not mindsets. Middle Eastern music isn't automatically bad (though you could very easily think that from the kind of stuff "the man" is putting out. So bad... *tear*). With that SC3 are not a Middle Eastern band. They're just awesomeness in a can. They're sick mesh of electronica DJing, heavy metal riffs, Middle Eastern melodies, funky bass lines, surf rock, really weird time signatures, varied instruments, and long flowing hair has won me over entirely (You really think you can survive the HAIR????). They're probably along with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum the best avant-rock (well you really can't call this rock but it will have to do) to come out of the California avant-garde scene.

For those afraid of the word RIO (ahhhhhh!!! The horror) be not afraid! SC3 is not random noise (not saying really that any RIO band is, it is definitely the stereotype that has been tagged to it by many people... bastards). The melodies are ethnic and surprisingly catchy. The electronica beats are really cool. A moment it's a belly dancing party and then it's a rave and then it's a metal show and many times it's all them together. Try drinking that mix... You'll die, don't do it.

The songs are all really great. I don't really want to elongate on them too much, a bit pointless really. I'll just name a few and get on with it (these are songs you probably should check out first if you are interested in SC3): "Horsemen of the Invisible" (so awesome... so awesome), "Ship Of Fools", "Blaze Of The Grail" (funky awesome), "Zuliqar III". But really, and I mean really, all songs here deserve an honorable applause and a general praising hum ("hmmm... I say... oh ha ha how sonically pleasing").

Trey Spruance and co. deserve much respect for the excellent musicianship and really tight groove they've got going. Spruance (of Mr. Bungle fame) is a genius. He also plays a million trillion instruments on this album so yeah... damn. My bassist critique of Tim Smolens is very positive. He's groovy and provides the whole backbone of these songs. The grooves are usually very interesting and melodic. I'm not going to praise all musicians, though all very much deserve it, there's just too much of them. Buuuut, Eyving Kang on violins, adds so much to the music. The violin many time goes through so many effects and things that it really is just awesome.

I mean for a long time I have believed in modern music's ability to be even better than the golden 70s. In the end the decade doesn't really matter, but music like SC3's really goes to show that original music is alive and more than well, and we are probably in a golden age of music ourselves. SC3 just assures me that I have nothing to worry about, there are still people messed up enough to be coming up with this stuff. 4.75.

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Whereas the previous albums by Secret Chiefs 3 - the two Grand Constitution and Bylaws albums - had roved all over the musical map, Book M seems to be a much more cohesive piece - possibly due to Mr Bungle's demise (or, at least, long-term hiatus) forcing Trey Spruance to think of the Secret Chiefs as his main project rather than a sideshow. This time around, the band focus on merging the Middle Eastern and ambient electronic dance music aspects of their sound, creating a curious blend of the very traditional and very modern.

Such a mixture of different elements of the band's music is, of course, in keeping with the alchemical themes of the album, though it would take an esotericist who had carefully studied all the books Spruance has read to figure out what he's on about here; the important thing is that this album shows an important maturation in the sound of Secret Chiefs 3 and is the best of their first three releases.

Review by LearsFool
COLLABORATOR Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars "Book M" is just one of the all time greatest avant-prog albums. On it Secret Chiefs 3 serves up a meal that was made by just plain smashing through barriers, mixing genres in ways that were before unheard of. Traditional Middle Eastern, electronica, heavy prog rock, prog metal, and even resemblances to heavy hip hop and dancehall beats, all of these take turns blowing your mind. The music is manic, fast, and complex, putting your friend's tech death garage band to shame. And it is all masterfully constructed and played. The result is an album that never lets up until the band just runs out of ideas, and then knows to pull out their preprepared grand finale. Listening to this record is like putting yourself in the middle of the crock pot the band used to cook up this delicious magnum opus, this soup of genres and styles and inspiration. It's hot, it's spicy, and it is wonderful. Try dancing to it! At the least, do yourself a massive favour and try this homecooked masterpiece. You won't regret it. You may yet even play it on repeat all day.
Review by TCat
COLLABORATOR Eclectic Team
5 stars Secret Chiefs 3 started out as a project from "Mr. Bungle" members Trey Spruance, Trevor Dunn, and Danny Heifetz. However, this doesn't mean that the music sounds like Mr. Bungle without Mike Patton. This music is a completely different animal, even though it is still very different from most everything else. Since the beginning, several other artists have been in or worked with the band, and now it has become more of a collaboration between artists with Spruance being the one constant member. The band has also explored so many different styles and genres, often within the same album. So, pretty much every recording by the band has been a surprise. It has also been revealed that the band is actually comprised of 7 other satellite bands, some of whom have recorded albums on their own.

This particular album utilizes the combination of traditional western instruments along with Turkish, Persian, and Arabic instruments and other stringed instruments and percussion instruments. Plus you get these sounds provided in traditional and non-traditional settings resulting in some very interesting combinations that not only include ethnic flavors, but completely brand new otherworldly styles. All of this is also instrumental.

"Book M" which is SC3's third full length studio album is mostly centered on the above mentioned styles of music, but there are some interesting combinations made here. The album is broken up into 3 sections, the first called "Observance of the World" taking up 3 tracks. After the mostly traditional sounding "Knights of Damcar", we get a sudden shift to a percussion heavy "Hagia Sophia" utilizing electronic beats and traditional percussion with a heavy string-like melody peppered with heavy guitars. "Vajra" takes a traditional melody and surrounds it with a tricky progressive drum pattern and increase the intensity with guitar power chords and many other amazing textures. What an awesome sound! "Ship of Fools (Stone of Exile)" utilizes a 3 / 4 pattern and slips in extra beats here and there to keep you disoriented while a quirky melody plays.

Section 2 is "Engagement of the Sword" taking up the next 5 tracks. "Horsemen of the Invisible" has a traditional dance melody playing with traditional instruments, heavy percussion, heavy guitars and electronics all mixed together in a foot- stomping, swirling track. Without missing a beat, they take organic instruments playing the melody and suddenly switch it to an electronic bass. "Combat for the Angel" has an amazing violin lead throughout the track and uses a hard, plodding drum pattern while the violin performs musical calescentics until the pattern breaks up and things get experimental. This flows into "Zulfigar III" which has a deeper and darker feel with rumbling guitars and electronic percussion taking the lead while strings play around. "Siege Perilous" starts out as a more gypsy-baroque sounding track in a mid-eastern gigue mixing some more classical and traditional styles with a start/stop melody. Some interesting experimentation goes on between the instrumental verses. "Dolorous Stroke" takes the complete opposite approach here with a fast paced drumming pattern and a very heavy surf-punk feel with a giant wall of shifting noise drones.

Section 3 takes up the last 4 tracks and is called "Ritual of the Cup". In "Blaze of the Grail (Main Theme)" a sitar style instrument plays an arpeggio chord while a funky guitar effect plays and suddenly changes to a high school marching band and then to a jazz orchestra and then throw in a crazy violin and add some tubas and you get the idea. Well actually you don't, that's why you have to hear this. "Lapsit Exillis" is a short track mixing traditional and rock instruments. "Lapis Baitulous" utilizes more electronic disco sounds with the mid-Eastern feel and various sundry items including the kitchen sink. This album ends with "Safina". Starting with expansive synth chords, an unexpected funky electronic bass line comes along and percussion drops in at 1 minute. Brass carries the melody as the funky beat continues as a jazz/funk fusion plays. The music fades just after 5 minutes. After 7 and a half minutes, a very loud, distorted and cinematic ending wraps it all up.

This album is an amazing melting pot of awesomeness. This is the music I love to hear, where styles are mixed to create new things, and even though you have an underlying style going on here, so many boundaries are stretched and genres are combined to make everything unpredictable, but undeniably catchy and listenable. How could you not listen to this and just love it? Even those not necessarily attracted to the middle Eastern vibe here will love this because it is so versatile. I highly suggest listening to this just so you can really experience it, because the things I say to try to describe these tracks don't come close to what you really hear. This is essential because it is so groundbreaking and unique.

Review by siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars When the debut album by SECRET CHIEFS 3 came to light in 1996, the project which was an extension of creative mastermind Trey Spruance's fertile imagination seemed like a one-off project where the cross-pollinating effects of Western and Middle Eastern musical styles could duke it out under the banner of mutilated surf rock and drum and bass techno. The album pretty much successfully covered as much ground as possible within the somewhat less overarching reach of the Mr. Bungle projects. Making it clear that tracks like "Techno Allah" on the "Disco Volante" album were spawned in the deep recesses of Spruance's psyche, the album pretty much nurtured every possible variation of that track and then some. However, the project was not quite finished as a second "Grand Constitution" in the form of "Hurqalya" was forged in the same molten cauldron of surf rock, breakcore, Arab folk music, progressive rock and psychedelia which abandoned the free-for-all head scratching moments of the debut and steered the project into a somewhat more focused stylistic approach however Bungle was still going strong and nobody could have guessed that SC3 would generate more life.

The new millenium arrived and Mr. Bungle released its final album "California" and then promptly called it quits which left Spruance with the freedom to indulge his wildest fantasies in his many side projects. While Faxed Head had reached its logical conclusion rather quickly the SECRET CHIEFS 3 project however conjured up a wealth of new stylistic cross-pollinating elements to be explored and in the process of searching through the misty brumes of the musical sounds of the Silk Road, Spruance continued the project and declared it his main gig as the ashes of Bungle were finally laid to rest. BOOK M emerged three years after "Hurqalya" and took all the disparate elements of that album and executed them into even more demanding instrumental gymnastics with unthinkably precise and wickedly cool production techniques. The fusion techniques of the previous albums had been flawlessly woven together like the highest quality Persian rug and the results were the next chapter of the mystical thematic world that simulates a long lost culture secretly ruled by the invisible mystics vibrating in a dimension just outside of our perceivable frequencies. These sounds culminated into one of the SC3's most magical albums that continued the Ennio Morricone film score feel in Spaghetti Middle Eastern form teased out with subtler hints of surf rock, chamber pop, avant-prog and modern Western classical majesty.

Thematically BOOK M can be thought of as the soundtrack to three volumes of mystical texts: "Observance Of The World," "Engagement Of The Sword" and "Ritual Of The Cup." While the Middle Eastern sounds that range from traditional Arabic folk and Persian scales to even touches of Indonesian, Indian, Celtic folk and gypsy swing, the tracks meander through various layers of tones and timbres with off-kilter time signatures, drum and bass electronic outbursts, surf rock undercurrents and bouts of renegade violin solos (courtesy of Eyvind King), heavy metal guitar heft, funk grooviness, psytrance electronica hyperactivity and appearances by fellow ex-Bunglers Danny Heifetz on drums and various ethnic percussive instruments and Bär McKinnon on saxophone. The entire run of the album's near 55 minute run is like a well executed journey through the mystical lands that evoke sonic representations of the magical beings encountered through the various ritualistic practices that evoke the timelessness of the folk aspects of the music. It's almost as if the timelines have merged and the relaxed acoustic ancient world has united with the electronic frenzied quickening of the modern 21st century where it is impossible to distinguish the origins of any particular element of the music.

Less anarchic than the previous two albums, BOOK M seamlessly exudes a true sense of multi-genre fusion rarely achieved in such a perfected manner by recycling past themes and advancing them into new epic arenas. The album truly comes off as the soundtrack to a film that has never existed yet evokes the mystic avenues of the mind where the crossroads are populated by the entire lexicon of the musical histories of planet Earth. Spruance proved on BOOK M that not only did SECRET CHIEFS 3 still have life in the project but that it could be elevated to extremely advanced levels carried out through the rigorousness of perfecting the production techniques and the meandering march of modulating magnificence. The brilliance of this album results from the fact that every detail is perfectly carried out but by how easy it is to sit for the entirety of this album time after time and never once find the slightest flaw or trace of boredom. SECRET CHIEFS 3 is truly a niche sort of band that is music for nerds who have heard it all before and crave something totally inventive and completely existing outside the box of the established orthodoxies of the music industry. Not only did Spruance demonstrate that he was one of the masterminds of the entire Bungle experience but made it clear once and for all that out of the ensemble of genii that made up Bungle that he was one of the top dogs in the creative madness that took the world by storm and still resonates high on the freak-o-meter even by today's standards. Another masterpiece by SC3 here!

Latest members reviews

5 stars Book M by Secret Chiefs 3 is an album that deserves to be heard that has, thus far, gone mostly unnoticed on this website (as evidence by the whopping ZERO reviews of this album. Perhaps not everybody's cup of tea, Book M is an absolutely insane mix of genres ranging from surf rock, techno, metal ... (read more)

Report this review (#252682) | Posted by AgentSpork | Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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