Despite what its name may suggest, the new self-titled album from San Diego post-hardcore quartet Secrets—which currently consists of vocalist/rhythm guitarist/keyboardist/pianist Richard Rogers, lead guitarist Michael Sherman, screamer Wade Walters and bassist Connor Branigan—is not a quiet thing. Whatever secrets the record contains are not whispered in hushed tones. Rather, they bleed forth in angsty vocals, heavy chords, and machine-gun drum parts.
But the hardcore elements of the record do not preclude dynamic contrast or intricacy of composition. The screaming distortion of the chordal rhythms melds well with a variety of synth tones and the occasional piano part.
The contrast between the unclean vocals of Walters and the cleaner, emo-tinged voice of Richard Rogers catalyzes a multi-layered sound that is at once tender and coarse, melodic and dissonant. Walters’ vocals, along with the tone of the guitars, bring a veritable metal texture to the sound, while Rogers’ voice, along with the band’s keen sense of melody, makes the album approachable for fans of softer, “emo” bands like The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.
“Sixteen,” the album’s opening track, begins with a deep synth drone and a brighter, organ-like part that crescendos into a clean, economical guitar riff. The passage is more akin to Pink Floyd than Metallica.
Rogers offers a soft, melodic vocal part before the guitars enter with a vengeance and the head-banging commences. Drums and guitars parallel one another at breakneck speeds as Walters screams. Rogers’ vocals return softly in a breakdown section anchored by drums and bass, then gain angst and urgency before bleeding into another metal passage.
Track five, “Five Years,” opens with heavy, start-and-stop guitar parts that ascend under Walters’ deep screams. The passage would pass muster with even the most devout metalhead. The song’s breakdown section features a cymbal part that whispers behind sustained guitar distortion and layered synth textures. A lilting guitar part joins a bass interlude; then, Walters’ vocals return behind an effect reminiscent of radio static. Later, heavy, pulsing chords return, supplemented by a vaguely atonal yet melodically intriguing lead part from Sherman.
“Incredible,” the album’s third track, commences with a distorted yet triumphant guitar part supplemented by pseudo-choral vocal harmonies. Then, the group tears into a heavy, scream-filled verse that is enough to break your neck, not just because it oozes the sort of raw emotion that is unique to metal music, but because the chord progression is so damn catchy.
Calls and responses between Walters and Rogers facilitate the marriage of melody and rawness throughout the song, and throughout the record. The pinnacle of the vocalists’ collaboration comes on track six, “Mouth Breather,” which vacillates between a bone-rattling verse and a singalong-worthy—though no less angsty—chorus.
The album closes with a couplet that employs subtle electronic elements. “The End,” the penultimate cut, unfolds out of a multi-layered rhythm part that features a variety of synth textures. Walters’ guttural howl takes a backseat, but enters emphatically in the song’s final seconds.
The last track begins with a bass-heavy synth part that builds toward a chorus featuring desperate yet hopeful pleas from Rogers. Walters enters later, punctuating that desperation as only a metal screamer can.
Secrets offers melodically-conscious hardcore music that functions well as a gateway into the genre. The diversity and complexity of the album will garner appreciation from a wide spectrum of listeners.
Secrets will be available on February 23, wherever you get music. You can preorder your copy here.
Check out the band’s social media pages for more information: