Review: Celestial Season – The Secret Teachings

Celestial Season forever carved their name in the Dutch doomcharts after releasing their debut Forever Scarlet Passion in 1993, followed by the international acclaimed Solar Lovers. Their doom sound consisted partly of the well known ingredients: deep growling vocals, slow melodies and dark basslines. Added to that, the band had two violinists that added a huge amount of atmosphere and made a recognisable sound. And moreover: the band was not afraid to experiment. Where the debut album was very consistent, style wise, Solar Lovers allowed more experiment and added different styles. Especially the closing song made clear why the band went on a different path, choosing stoner rock above doom.

From 2002 on the band fell silent, surprising us in 2011 by re-recording songs from their Solar Lovers album and even playing it live a few times in 2012, now with vocalist George Oosthoek (Orphanage, Ayreon, and many more). After another long hiatus, right now Celestial Season is re-releasing their doom days-albums as well as releasing a completely new album. And although 25 years have past, the album is exactly as one would think it is. A nice combination of styles of both first albums, more matured, and with great details. And, like Solar Lovers, not a typical doom album in which all songs seem to flow into each other. The songs are diverse, the use of instruments, vocals and style varied.

In thirteen songs, some only short instrumental parts, others long spun melodic doom classics, Celestial Season welcomes us back into their diverse musical world.
Opening song The Secret Teachings of All Ages has you hooked from the first seconds, starting with a crystal clear duet of violin and cello, building up with piano. After about a minute and a half, the guitar kicks in like a master and the whole band reveals itself. The slow and deep dark vocals make you wonder where the hell this Dutch death vocalist has been hiding all this time, and particularly…why?! The whole song is as doom as you can get it. Melodic, classic and heavy.
Second song, For Twisted Loveless, was the first single the band released. The song reminds me both in lyrics and musical arrangement of the very emotional The Scent of Eve from the Solar Lovers album. What comes up, is that the vocals are the same as on the first song, but lacks emotional depth and basically stays in the same tone all the time.

The other songs make up for that again, luckily. All have the great doomy vibe, but all are different. The Ourobouros is like a slow machine, crushing everything in its way, while the violin is telling you to cheer up a bit. The short interlude Dolores is sad and beautiful, and could easily last an hour or two without getting boring.

Long Forlorn Tears and They Saw It Come From the Sky mix doom and stoner rock into an interesting unity. These two songs also make clear that the band, although strongly focusing on doom, does not wash away their stonerdays, but found a way to create an album that has room for both. Another flicker of days past is the song Lunar Child, which at least in name refers strongly to Solar Child of the Solar Lovers album.

The album finishes with two songs that stand out a bit. Apart from whispering at the beginning of the song A Veil of Silence is the only longer song without the vocalist. Six minutes long it gives space to atmospheric sounds and nice guitar solo’s. No doom, not really stoner, just good rock sound, making clear that Celestial Season will never be just one style. And that can be seen as a relief.
Closing song is the Type O Negative cover Red Water. The band has a heavier approach to the song, putting it down stronger then TON did, yet it is quite odd to all of a sudden hear female vocals. For me it asks to adjust my expectations and after some reluctance it is actually quite a nice song, just hard to fit with the rest. Then again, it makes listening to Celestial Season quite a musical adventure. I do wonder what the future will bring!

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