Review Summary: The Secret respectfully request that melody go die in a deep, dark hole.
Hardcore has always been a genre defined not by melody, but by chaos. From the grating, oft-unintelligible vocals to the ungodly-sounding riffs and drums, all progressing at speeds of thousands of miles per hour, the more extreme bands of hardcore are the bands that your parents call unhealthy and demonic and your friends call random noise. The problem with these musical embodiments of utter destruction is that this emphasis on the chaotic can lend itself to a feeling of the individual bands being just as indistinguishable as their vocals. One can sometimes feel that once they've heard one band, they've heard them all.
Enter The Secret
This Italy-based hardcore band truly is something else. Combining elements of Converge, crust punk groups such as Tragedy or Trap Them, grind, a sprinkling of black metal, and a thousand extra shots of pure, unadulterated intensity, this is unlike anything you've ever heard before. The vocals are just as rough and unintelligible as anything else in the genre, if not even more so. The production is exactly how this type of music was meant to be: raw, intense, coarse, and unrelenting. It isn't so underproduced that the instruments are indistinguishable from one another: anyone and their grandmother can still pick out the guitars and the bass and the individual riffs. But it still retains the intensity of a live performance, and contributes to the album's ability to invoke mental images of a genocide without much effort.
The instrumentalists are a highlight here. The Secret, as well as finding the balance between rough and clean production, have discovered an equilibrium between technicality and sensibility. Both the guitar riffs and the basslines show that the band members really can play, but they never descend into a pit of tiresome wankage. The guitars are characterized by low-tuned open power chords and fast tremolo picking, with a few heavier-than earth breakdowns thrown in for good effect. The bass isn't anything to write home about, but manages to keep up with the rest of the band while always retaining its own identity. And of course, like all good, chaotic music, the drums are insanely fast, intense, and, well, exactly what anyone would expect from a band like The Secret.
The problems that this type of music's critics like to point out when putting it down are all present, but don't necessarily detract from the album in any way, shape, or form. There isn't an incredible amount of variation between songs, and to the untrained ear one slab of distortion and demon shouts will be completely indistinguishable from the next. That's not to say that there is no variation whatsoever: on longer (5-minute +, as opposed to the average 1-2 minute runtime of most of the other tracks) cuts such as opener Cross Builder
and album highlight Bell of Urgency
, The Secret slows things down to a pace that turns the songs into sludgy slabs of utter darkness rather than chaotic slabs of frenetic intensity. On Bell of Urgency
, the band even shows a few signs of black metal influence, with the first half of the track consisting of shrieked vocals over high-end tremolo picking. The second half is mostly made up of variations of one of the heaviest, most face-shattering breakdowns ever to violate your ear canals, making this one of the album's best tracks.
That's not where the experimentation and uniqueness ends: on album closer 1968
, after about 4 minutes of head-smashing intensity, the track descends into a vocal-less stupor of feedback and ambiance for its final 2 minutes. This gives the listener some much-needed time for reflection. Give yourself a little pat on the back, go and reward yourself with something of a high caloric content: you deserve it. You've just made it through 2010's most dissonant, chaotic effort. Just remember when considering this album: this is not
for the faint of heart, and it is not
for those who don't like this genre in the first place and are attempting to get into it. It is not a safe record: it is the musical equivalent of getting one's face smashed in with a sledgehammer. If this does
sound like something you would enjoy, then I can promise you: the pain is worth it.
Where It Ends
Bell of Urgency