Secret Chiefs 3: Book of Horizons
Produced and Mixed by Trey Spruance
Engineered by Trey Spruance, Chris Parsons, and Tim Smollens
Mastered by Thom Canova
4 out of 5 mics
One of the truly under-appreciated musicians of the last 20 years, Trey Spruance is an enigma. Leader of many bands, master of many instruments, incredible songwriter, virtuoso guitarist - Spruance is all of these things and more. Spruance was the co-founder of Mr. Bungle in 1985, and has played with Faith No More, John Zorn, and ASVA. One of his longest running and most extreme projects is Secret Chiefs 3.
Book of Horizons is the finest of the Chiefs releases. The lineup on this album is: Trey Spruance on guitar, electronics, bass, vocal, and a million other instruments, Eyvind Kang on viola, Shahzad Ismaily handling percussion, Timb Harris playing violin, Danny Heifetz on drums, and Rich Doucette contributing on various instruments. Book of Horizons covers a lot of musical ground. This certainly isn't surprising considering Spruance's penchant for switching musical styles many times within one song. The music is intricate, exciting, and some songs are real challenge to listen to.
Book of Horizons begins with a couple of Middle Eastern-influenced songs, and then takes a completely different direction with 'Exterminating Angel', a high speed death metal/electronic assault. The album follows this pattern more or less throughout. I find that the metal and electronic based songs are somewhat less successful than those of the Arabic, Persian, and Indian styles. Spruance and company can hold their own when it comes to extreme metal and electronica, but the brilliance of their song-crafting really shines in the more subdued pieces such as 'The End Times', 'The 4 (Creat Ishraqi Sun)', The Exile, 'Book T: Exodus', 'The Three', and 'Welcome to the Theatron Animatronique'.
While not entirely cohesive, Book of Horizons is a very pleasurable listening experience. The musicianship is phenomenal.
Spruance's abilities behind the boards are as impressive as his playing. He's been producing and/or mixing his albums since 1995, when he co-produced Mr. Bungle's legendary Disco-Volante. The sound on Book of Horizons ranges from warm and intimate ('The End Times') to grand and cinematic ('Book T: Exodus'). Mastering by Thom Canova is nicely done, leaving the album with very good dynamic range, and no digital thin-ness or harshness. Everyone involved is passionate about the music and it shows.