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Subterranea: Secrets Of The Moon

Secrets Of The Moon’s journey along the left-hand path may have been marked by tragedy, but their search for enlightenment remains undimmed.

As monolithic and single-minded as the metal underground can seem from a distance, any closer inspection will reveal not only an ever-expanding, constantly innovative cauldron of activity, but a fearless resistance to orthodoxy as bands step outside of genre straightjackets, inhale a raft of outside influences and bring psychedelic new perspectives to metal’s true heart of darkness.

But as much as the past few years have seen a rise of bands such as Bölzer, Cult Of Fire and The Ruins Of Beverast – bands for whom the occult isn’t so much as style as a sensibility and a source to be channelled, with infinite scope for interpretation – often it’s those who have taken the long journey from the roots of black metal to the uncharted realms beyond who can cast the most illumination on the spiritual evolution of the scene.

Its foundations laid 20 years ago in the medieval city of Osnabrück, Germany, Secrets Of The Moon’s path has been one of ongoing enlightenment, musical transformation and the prising open of perception. From the murky, militaristic rites of their Stronghold Of Inviolables debut full-length to the imperious if vividly vehement sermons of later albums such as 2009’s Privilegivm and 2012’s Seven Bells, the band have forged a distinctive occultic aura steeled by a conviction that has only ever expanded horizons, to the point where strict genre definitions no longer offer any bearing. Nevertheless, for guitarist Ar, transformation and awareness of continuity are inextricably bound.

“I think you cannot really get rid of your roots,” he explains, “and you shouldn’t. That comes through naturally when me and [vocalist] sG play together in a certain way that is Secrets Of The Moon. But we like a lot of different styles of music and we talk a lot about music and what especially we are trying to find in music. Music speaks to you, and you’re on an everlasting hunt to find it for yourself. It almost doesn’t matter if it’s a really heavy riff or a really fragile and atmospheric arrangement.”

It’s this search for spiritual resonance that’s led the underground scene to make alliances far beyond its musical boundaries, the likes of Dead Can Dance, Fields Of The Nephilim and even the devout, fevered Christianity of Wovenhand becoming talismanic presences in a world sworn to the dark.

“It’s a very interesting situation,” muses Ar, “because black metal is a weird hybrid of something that is very conservative, which is metal – and that’s good, it’s the reason the metal scene is still around and 16-year-old kids listen to Iron Maiden – and the occult and Satanic aspect, which is an ever-expanding principle. You’re trying to discover and experience things that are grotesque and unknown. So it’s very important to try to find inspiration, especially in things that feel weird in the beginning. Maybe black metal just gave us the spark to be ready to experience music that really implies something valuable to you. The more you go on, the more it becomes just the essence of what you’re trying to do.”

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