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Secret of Elements – Chronos Review

The most powerful album I've listened to this year.

Sounds like…

A solar system of dramatic moments in time.

The review

Johann Pätzold aka Secret of Elements has created nothing short of a musical spectacle with his new album ‘Chronos’. The German composer, instrumentalist and producer doesn’t seem to understand doing things in halves as every track on this album can be filed under ‘epic’.

This starts off with piano and synth intro ‘Grace’ that hypnotically and boldly lets the ivories ring out. It is the first of several tracks that play with the waltz of time. It plays similar phrases but adds unique epic touches to it each time and feels like a sci-fi extravaganza. ‘A Last Waltz’ brings in Mischa Blanos for an epic boiling pot of pianos that build and build over a delicate introduction of intimate waltzing lilts. From the rustic openers, we switch to a mix of ambient electronica and room noises. ‘Momento’ feels like the audio equivalent of a space journey around a garden shed. Chair creaks and piano clunks are ballooned out to feel like epic moments in time. This takes place around a beautiful kick drum, piano and string arrangement.

Photo by nicholas blanchadell
Secret of Elements Photo by Nichola Blanchadell

This transition allows Secret of Elements to move into the more abstract celestial part of the album. ‘Astral’ and ‘Nothing Lost Yet’ both work hand in hand as laying the foundations of epic classical synth and orchestral pieces. The former is a magical bloom of musical colour. The latter brings in lots of atmospherics and percussion to up the ante as the strings are emboldened with emotion. They also move from the hazy to the pristine as time comes into focus and the drums kick in. You wouldn’t have thought at the opening of this album we’d be hinting at deep club vibes but we nearly reach them here. ‘Cassini’ slows everything down to a mechanical pulse whilst epic distant organs ring out over dramatic piano and synth arpeggios. It was this single that introduced me to Secret of Elements and it is a great representation of the album’s sense of scale.

Not even drone music can escape the dramatic approach. ‘Vinculum’ is a beautiful cumulus of strings that bustle along like a day/night cycle. Distant vocals cry out as, over the course of the eight minutes, the strings switch from synth-like to pure. Bold reverb-heavy pianos return for the romantic ‘Liebe’ before ‘Rage’ takes the clocks tick-tock to task. Here a clock tick is twisted into a heated jews harp bounce over sawing strings and wooden clacks. For an album that is epic in scale, this is the sole track that goes for the tension vein. It rams home the message that time waits for no one. Doesn’t that make you rageful too?

Secret of Elements brings in Laure Brisa for ‘Aurora’. Here, the harp takes centre stage to give vibrant wonder to the orchestration. Treading otherworldly, curiosity, beauty and perhaps fear too – the track is utterly majestic. When the vocals of Laure join in, the track leans either to a more angelic or sinister tone depending on your mood and view. ‘Mein Schmerz’ rounds out the album with a beautiful contemporary classical number. The strings really shimmer here and things feel hopeful too.

It is rare that I discover an album that takes a listener on such a visceral journey. Secret of Elements manages to find new and emotive ways to make everything feel so big and so alive. Often, this means that if everything is dramatic, it lessens the overall experience but that is not the case here. Instead, each track exudes passion in different ways and I felt humbled and restored after each listen. I recommend getting a starry night sky view up on a big TV and playing this album with the lights off. You will be transported away into another world. Phenomenal.

Recommended track: Cassini

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Secret of Elements - Chronos



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