Out of the woodwork of doom metal, fusing the influences of Agalloch on the one hand and Yob on the other, comes to us Pathway. What we’re faced with here is a singular creation, one that has its roots sunk firmly in delivery: its aim is to dig deep into itself, grasp the very firmament of the band’s sound and then apply it firmly to your ears, mind and heart. The most striking quality of this album’s forty and change minutes is how much ground it covers while still being able to perform the above. Accessible and engaging while still being unrelenting and uncompromising, Pathway is everything doom metal should be.
The album’s structure is curious at first and is the starting point for our comparison to Agalloch. Interspersed among the regularly named tracks are interludes in Roman numerals. These portray a journey, indeed a pathway, that ends in dark murder, madness and occult ritual. This method reminds us of the gravel passing footsteps from Agalloch’s The Mantle and lends an immediately organizing and structuring element to the album which many of its ilk lack. This story within the album infuses it with a vector and a spine, allowing the listener to mark well the shifts that take place therein.
And there are shifts a plenty. First proper track, “Three Swords,” is a nostalgia tinged doom track that echoes back to Black Sabbath antics but is firmly rooted within the movement currently overtaking doom, namely the influences of Yob and Pallbearer on the type of riffs and vocals that are replete within the genre nowadays. However, Secrets of the Sky have their own word or two to add to this ongoing conversation, as they are more than ready to show on tracks like “Another Light” and their intriguing approach to vocals. Again drawing back on Agalloch, the almost half-whispered intonations are a perfect counterpoint to the instruments, grasping firm on our imagination in this quasi-ballad.
In addition, this is not a one-shift-pony album. Heading back to firmer ground with “Garden of Prayers”, Secrets of the Sky are simply setting the stage for one of the most explosive and surprising tracks of the year, “Fosforos”. Infused with a groovy bass overlaid onto furious guitars that remind us of Shining‘s blackjazz and bearing an overall contempt for humanity, “Fosforos” is fast, meaty and acid-dripping. The vocals feel the change as well, leaning towards black-metal behavior with their vitriol. Smack in the middle of this gorgeous feast of despair, everything gives way to an insanely infectious doom riff, backed by abyssal vocals that dredge deep the range of Secrets of the Sky, resulting in one of their darker creations.
A short sojourn among demons with “VI” brings us to the closing track “Eternal Wolves”. Beautifully placed near the end, it is a dreamy piece that is clothed in most of the influences we mentioned above. Its purpose is to remind us what this album was about and where we stand at its end. It is arguably the strongest track on the album and the band are to be applauded for placing it as a closer. Its classic, troperiffic doom is how we want to remember this album: masterful, self-possessed, powerful and convincing. When push comes to shove, this has been about one thing: executing a doom masterpiece. All that’s left is for “VII” to lull us back to sleep with the chilling resolution to this gripping tale.
Secrets of the Sky’s Pathway gets…