Review Summary: From beginning to end, Agnus Dei is the album that this band has been threatening to release for their entire career.
There is something about The Secret’s sound that seems to entomb the listener in an ominousness that is comparable to the view of a great storm approaching on the horizon. One could say that if 2004’s Luce was that approaching storm, and follow-ups Disintoxication and Solve Et Coagula were the storm wreaking havoc, Agnus Dei is the disaster of what is left in the wake. The result of something cataclysmic, with all its destruction, atrocity, and bleakness, is often far worse than the cataclysm itself. This is where the quartet now stands musically.
While past albums have begun with a foreboding track, setting the scene for what’s to come, Agnus Dei allows no escape from its wrath from the moment it begins. The album title track presents The Secret’s newest offering with such malevolence and decimating brutality that the listener is only left to wonder how much better it could possibly get.
Where Agnus Dei sacrifices melody, it births ingenuity and finesse. The album’s overarching balance flows from track to track, and spills some interesting surprises along the way, all while consistently staying true to the intent of the music. Songs like Post Mortem Nihil Est and Love Your Enemy break up the perceived thrashy mold of the album; while the former is ushering in an atypical drum beat for a band of this stature, the latter delivers a fast-paced, guitar-droning intro that is careening towards utter pandemonium. Darkness I Became finishes off its severity with a battering ram of a riff, trudging into Heretic Temple, which could be classified as one of those ambience-builders that are everpresent within The Secret’s repertoire. Album ender Seven Billion Graves grimly points at an obvious picture, painted throughout the album, coming full circle. To put it frankly, there is not one moment of Agnus Dei that feels unwarranted.
This is also due in part to the fact that the album’s production value is at an all-time high for the band. Whether Kurt Ballou is realistically responsible or not, given that he produced the work, it plays wonderfully at high amplitudes. All musical input from the group comes across starkly clear. It’s as though each song is a storyteller, and not just a story being told. Such ability isn’t always existent when dealing with this genre of music. The drumming is sharp, precise, and at times, the weightbearer. Certain beats blast like they aren’t only guiding the rhythm, they are frontlining the song. Meanwhile, the guitar and bass riffs hit with a violent intention at every turn. It should also be noted that Marco Coslovich’s vocal effort is, as it has always been since Luce, a genuine force that comes off as more of an instrument than it does as a man behind a microphone. This “force” adds immeasurably to the frantic and damned nature of the music, and is quite simply irreplaceable. It has been and continues to be a defining trait of the group.
It is all of these features and more that put Agnus Dei at the top of The Secret’s discography. From beginning to end, it is the album that this band has been threatening to release for their entire career. Despite the major themes of death and grim tidings, the amount of life surrounding the songs is welcomed wholeheartedly, as any album with such dark subject matter requires a certain mood and understanding to sit through, and therefor isn’t commonly being played over and over. So while Agnus Dei might not be the album that is consistenly in your rotation for months or years on end, it will be that album that gives you those blissful feelings you only get when you know you’re listening to the highest caliber and quality of music.