Review: Secrets – Everything That Got Us Here

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With the mid-to-late aughts creating such a quagmire of melodic metalcore acts, it’s easy to see why one might want to abandon ship in favor of fresher waters. But with a risk of alienating an established fanbase or falling prey to the siren song of radio rock pretension that continues to burrow it’s way into the scene, how do you change course without losing credibility? Sometimes a little tweaking is all that’s needed.

You can buy Everything That Got Us Here on iTunes.

You can buy Everything That Got Us Here on iTunes.

San Diego post-hardcore outfit Secrets may have found the formula for reinvention on their latest release, Everything That Got Us Here. Despite the loss of the band’s second unclean vocalist (Aaron Melzer) in as many releases earlier this year, Secrets have soldiered on, but have made some significant sonic upgrades that serve the band well without feeling cheap or inauthentic.

Melzer’s replacement, Wade Walters, also handles bass duties, but his vocal role is one of support – indeed, guitarist Richard Rogers is now the voice of Secrets. Already deemed as one of the strongest (and most underrated) vocalists in the scene, Rogers shines mightily in this new revamped version of Secrets. No longer confined to chorus duty, Rogers’ melodies are more enticing than ever.

While remnants remain of Secrets’ metalcore roots, Everything That Got Us Here is more akin to the self-titled era of Saosin than to your garden variety Rise-core. Lead single “Rise Up” is a fist-pumping anthem, fueled by the soaring vocals of Rogers, relying on guitars and drums to lift the song higher without the need to bring it all crashing down. Although there’s not much meat to the track lyrically, the song serves as a microcosm for this new melodically aggressive rendering of Secrets.

During the best moments of Everything That Got Us Here, the band show flashes of the metalcore crunch that fueled Fragile Figures, but rely much more on pop sensibilities and driving guitar melodies. On the stellar “Half Alive”, Rogers seethes in response to scene apathy, singing “Blend in, blend in to the mess, it’s better to fit in / They scream give in, give up what’s left of your innocence”. His fuming chorus of, “Ring me out to dry / Nothing left inside cause my passion left me half alive / Have I lost the fight? / Was it meant to be or should I let this die?” is a highlight of the album.

Similarly, “The Man That Never Was” is another big step forward for the band with a track that wouldn’t sound out of place on They’re Only Chasing Safety. Even when Secrets reveal their influences, the take is refreshing enough that it doesn’t feel re-hashed. “In Loving Memory” may be the closest the band comes to relying on old tendencies, with Walters screaming, “Agony is my reality” over a powerful breakdown, but even this rendering feels more inspired than you’d expect.

Even so, Everything That Got Us Here has its flaws – “For What it’s Worth” is a wannabe pop punk track that falls flat thanks to some uninspired songwriting, while the acoustic “The One With No One” attempts to capture the spark that made this summer’s Renditions so pleasing, but ends up feeling hollow. These blemishes are certainly acceptable in light of the band’s overhaul and don’t detract from how fun the rest of this record is.

In light of this year’s member upheaval, no one would have blamed Secrets for hanging it up. Instead, the band regrouped and pieced together the best album of their career thus far. Everything That Got Us Here is an acknowledgement of how turbulent the ride has been, but with a slick new sound and a solid album under their belt, chances are that clear skies lie ahead.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Review: Secrets – Renditions

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Since the release of their breakthrough album Fragile Figures in the summer of 2013, Rise Records act Secrets have literally been on the rise. The band resonated with the Warped crowd over the past two years and have landed on some major national tours alongside the likes of The Devil Wears Prada, Dance Gavin Dance and more.

A large part of what makes the band so enjoyable is their knack for melding metalcore and melody in a way that goes down easy for all kinds of listeners. Their catchy choruses reverberate with the pop punk pack while the band’s crunchy breakdowns strike a chord within hardcore circles. But what happens when the flash and flair are stripped away? Secrets have provided us the answer in the form of their new acoustic EP, Renditions.

This sort of outing isn’t uncommon: label mates Hands Like Houses and Issues released their own stripped down recordings in the form of Reimagine and Diamond Dreams just last year. What makes Renditions unique is its simplicity. This isn’t some experimental endeavor for the band – it’s a bare bones presentation in every sense of the word.

Recorded with Saosin’s Beau Burchell, Renditions is a truly intimate affair. The delicate nature of these recordings makes it sound as though the band were right in your living room. Gone is the violent delivery of Aaron Melzer and the band’s typical flair for the dramatic. Instead, gentle acoustic guitar notes back clean vocalist Richard Rogers as he delicately delivers each song.

“Forever and Never” opens the EP, fully capturing the band’s transition from heavy to light. The song’s new feel gives its chorus a poppy summertime vibe, even as the lyrics still sting. Somehow, lines like “How could you expect a boy like me to ever stand a chance against a girl like you?” take on an even weightier meaning in this new venue.

“Dance of the Dead” stands in stark contrast to its original form. This stripped down adaptation captures the song’s crushing emotion in a completely new way, backed by a plucking acoustic guitar. Rogers shines brightly on a new, tender version of “Fragile Figures”, which features cool harmonies during the song’s catchy chorus. You can still feel the original track within each of these songs, but it never feels as though something is missing.

Secrets slightly misstep on Renditions with a new song titled “What’s Left of Us”. While the strings and keys are a pleasant addition to the mix, the track is unable to overcome tired, cliché lyrics on the part of Rogers, even as his vocals plead. Nevertheless, the closer does little to pull down the EP as a whole.

The only major drawback to Renditions is that it’s not a new full length from the band. Rest assured, Secrets’ much-awaited third album is in the works and is sure to satiate those that desire a heavier edge. In the meantime, Renditions is a perfect soundtrack for summer nights and sing-alongs, cementing the band’s songwriting prowess and adding a new dimension to a handful of already impressive tracks.

4/5

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Secrets to Release “Renditions” on April 7

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Rise Records band Secrets have announced the release of an acoustic EP titled Renditions on April 7. Renditions will features three tracks from the band’s breakthrough 2013 album Fragile Figures, along with a brand new song titled “What’s Left of Us”. You can preorder Renditions here and stream the new song below:

Share your thoughts on the new song in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck