You have to be a dedicated fan to follow the works of Trey Spruance and his ever eclectic SECRET CHIEFS 3 project which in 2007 official revealed itself to be the amalgamation of seven satellite bands (The Electromagnetic Azoth, UR, Ishraqiyun, Traditionalists, Holy Vehm, FORMS, and NT Fan) but i am one of those hardcore fans so i relish the release of every album no matter which one of these satellite bands appears in the title along with some often the case unpronounceable title. For this pronounceable one BOOK OF SOULS: FOLIO A (Yes, this did come out before the 2015 Iron Maiden album of the same title), the seventh official album by SC3 we actually get more of a compilation album that features two tracks from all of these satellite bands except Holy Vehm and NT Fan. Some of these tracks are remade, some had been played live before release and some are totally new, however it is the perfect flow from beginning to end that makes this one of my favorite SC3 releases.
What this compilation business basically means is an even more eclectic album than usual for Mr Spruance and company for despite every track clearly sounding like SC3 in full regalia, the emphasis on different aspects of Spruance’s musical palette shines through making a rather nice flow of musical ideas from beginning to end which include all the usual SC3 suspects such as surf rock, Persian and Arab folk, metal, soundtrack and electronic music as well as some other ideas ranging from tango to the usual Rock In Opposition and Avant Prog and classical angular rhythms always on display. There are 11 musicians on board with this one hosting instruments that include guitar, bass, drums, bassoon, oboe, english horn, flute, cello, contrabass, various ethnic percussion, harp, violin, viola and a surprise cameo vocal appearance on “La Chanson de Jacky” by Spruance’s long time partner in crime Mike Patton from Mr. Bungle and Faith No More.
BOOK OF SOULS: FOLIO A is actually a collection of tracks that took over a decade to create and really delves into the extreme musical possibilities of all the types of music involved in its depths. For example, the Arabic and Persian influences are something that should have emerged from those respective cultures but SC3 seems to have found a knack for reinventing traditional musics from around the world by mixing and melding with the best production techniques showcasing every little detail into a glorious organic and powerful musical experience. There is literally no one who sounds like this band and BOOK OF SOULS: FOLIO A is a very nice de luxe and diverse offering of all the different ways Spruance has evolved this band into a musical octopus leaving no influential rock unturned.
All i can say is that this album is brilliant. It reflects the painstaking process and perfectionist tendencies of Trey Spruance over a decade time span leaving no t’s uncrossed and no i’s undotted. Everything about this album is perfect for my ears. The production is top-notch state of the art incredible and the music resides in some mysterious parallel universe that feels somewhat familiar but equally as alien as if it has been beamed across the cosmos from Alpha Centauri. While the musical scales that incorporate the various ethnic and Western influences are clearly recognizable, SC3 continues their abilities to weave this new musical tapestry into an ever more complex quiltage of sonic possibilities and delivers a successful outcome every time. This is the album where i started visualizing SC3’s music as a giant musical sand worm wriggling about like the one on the movie “Dune” that makes its way around through the sandy deserts and with each move retains enough familiar vibrations to always be identifiable as the source but with each new wriggling displays a new variation in as many ways as chemical elements can combine to create more complex molecules. Music is a sort of sonic chemistry and Spruance really has mastered this alchemy of sound.
This album is almost exclusively instrumental as are most SC3 albums and while this Dune worm wriggles from one avant-garde angular rhythm to another throughout the album there does lurk one major surprise when suddenly the listener is slapped in the face by the most unlikely type of track they could encounter. When the listener gets to the eleventh track the sudden burst of a Jacques Brel cover “La Chanson de Jacky” with Mike Patton making a cameo is a true shock as if Barry Manilow came out and played “Copacabana” at a death metal concert, yet somehow, in some way, it all works but it is true that anyone who enjoys SC3 albums are already of an eclectic nature so after the initial WTF wears off it’s all just par for the course of this experimental band that never fails to surprise. This is one of my absolute favorite albums of the so-called “satellite band” years and i can listen to this one over and over and over again in total admiration of how it all just flows from one track to the next. It should be mentioned that odd numbered tracks are the long fully developed tracks while the even ones are short little fluffers if you will for the following numbers. With music this complex, yet catchy and ever so captivating every time i listen to it always having my mind blown, i can give this glimpse of heaven no less than 5 stars.