US industrial act Bell have just released their debut album, a mixture of several extreme and noise genres. The album has been tagged under black, death, doom, ambient, black/death, doom, power electronics and noise. Some of these I wouldn’t consider appropriate to the music at all, really. Nevertheless, the album starts off with the light guitar reverbs, slight hums and electronic fuzz of “Call To The Himalayan Snow Creature” where power electronics, slight guitar elements (that appear to be melded with vocal clips) makeup “The Bell (To Full Rotation).” This follows into the direct noise of “Law Of The Cosmic Hammer” which almost sounds like the noise created by some sort of industrial ink printer. A loud horn bleats, which sends the static fuzz scampering like ants. “Amazon Sun” is next, sounding a little more ritualistic, though still quite fuzz-laden. There seems to be a kind of tribal feeling to this, which becomes even more apparent as chants make their way over the fuzz. It is not entirely uncommon for vocals to be raised above the noise and power electronics, but it isn’t the norm for this genre – which I respect, by the way. It’s nice to see people trying new approaches to the music. This later becomes a distorted ritual.
”Time Has Spoken Since Creation” follows the same droning vibe, but the distorted Tibetan throat singing of “Voice Of A Dead Universe” which makes me think of monks chanting in front of massive explosions, definitely stands out. I’m literally picturing two monks standing in front of this area where planes are flying over to drop large missiles that reduce everything to dust. The monks continue to chant as everything just becomes complete rubble, people turn to literal ashes and the damn planes just keep dropping their weapons of war. “Mercy Death” brings on the ear-shattering noise electronics that I don’t like about this genre, though they’ve never set off my ears in the way that bass from the television or a dropped pallet on concrete can (my ears are very sensitive these days). The track goes into that of an instrumental performance complete with harsh vocals and angry drums. This is about as “metal” as the performance gets and I’d love it if Bell could mix the two together, rather than performing a bunch of extreme drone metal and calling it a mix of black and death with power electronics. Very few bands have been able to mix actual metal with power electronics properly, I think I’ve only heard one act that were able to do it justice. It’s done decently here, but it wouldn’t hurt to mix tremolos in with all the noise.
“Expedition Tibet” is the band’s single, sounding about as harmless as can be. It’s more meditative, unlike much of the rest of this disc, which I’d define as quite devastating. “Song From The Hollow Earth” sounds like a mixture of an alien invasion and a ritual ceremony, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. The album’s title track came next, with some actual guitar riffs. These are distorted, but there’s a definite guitar here. I’d like to see what a distorted solo sounds like. The disc ends with the oddly transitive “Paperclip.” Not to be confused with the early Linkin Park number of the same name, it comes off as one of the most hypnotic and memorable pieces on the whole disc. This is where I feel that Bell shines.
Secrets From A Distant Star is an intriguing mixture of metal and noise music, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a perfect mix of the two. There are sections where he tries to do this, but it comes off so much better when the disc is filled with hypnotic sounds and chants, rather than an attempt at mixing Darkthrone with The Vomit Arsonist. Bell should really stick with what he’s proficient at, and may have grasped a little more than necessary with this one. It isn’t that the album is poor experience, it is that a few of these pieces do not really seem to confer an identity. They come and go, with no real strength on their own. “Voice Of A Dead Universe” and “Paperclip” however, seem to showcase the promise that Bell has in this genre. We definitely need more of that and far less filler. I do feel that filler exists on these kinds of albums and that mainly exists where one song sounds exactly like the other, failing to offer it’s own distinct vibe. I’d still say it’s worth a listen, but almost everything I’ve reviewed on this website is.
(11 Tracks, 59:00)