02. Gloom with a View
03. Peyote Ugly
04. Invitation... To a Party
05. Cowboy in Reverse
06. Sticks and Stones
07. Far from the Tree
09. Batter Reality
10. Cowboy Revisited
11. Depressed for Success
12. The Eternal Blink
13. Throw on Your Hunk Charm
14. Line of Progression
15. Ordeal or No Deal
16. Fear is the Driving Force
17. Returning Video Tapes
18. Make it Look Like Wolves Did it
2009 Tribunal Records
So if you've paid any attention to the banners across the top of Lambgoat over the past few weeks, you might've noticed that Tribunal Records has hyped A Secret Death as "An Australian blend of doom and hardcore." I'm a bit of a doom junkie, so I ignored my usual cynicism and let myself get a little excited when I hit play.
Naturally, after the first listen, it was pretty clear Tribunal is trying to blow some smoke up my ass with the doom angle. But whatever, were I more impressionable, I would have probably picked it up and the marketing machine would've claimed another chunk of change from my wallet. Mission: Accomplished.
So, what the hell DO A Secret Death play, if not "doom inflected hardcore"
Well. That's the thing. A Secret Death cover a lot of bases during the album's 57+ minute running time. For the most part, though, they jock a decent brand of latter-day metallic hardcore, most notable on tracks like "IDKFA" and "Batter Reality." There's the standard thrashing guitars, tastefully handled breakdowns and some clean vocals for sing-along marketability. Plus, the requisite video game cheat code reference that everybody seems to be so fucking excited about nowadays. "Peyote Ugly" sees the addition of brief jazzy breakdowns and vocal harmonies reminiscent of Miss Machine-era Dillinger Escape Plan, (and, in the same vein as the cheat code references, airquotes "cheeky" movie references) while "The Eternal Blink" cribs some vocal dynamics straight from Zozobra's playbook. On tracks like "Sticks and Stones" and "Gloom with a View," there's a strong emphasis on the slow buildup, clean guitar lines and hypnotic compositions of most Cult of Neurisis-styled acts. However far the band reaches, they consistently fall back on the framework of aggressive metallic hardcore. As a result, it works. They're able to dabble in various styles that have clearly influenced them without leaving the album sounding too disjointed. Well, for the most part, at least.
There are a few moments where the band stretches things too far and comes off as grasping at straws are when they make a few stabs into radio-friendly clean vocals. "Far From the Tree" - moving from the context of abrasive screams with gruff softer vocals into outright crooning - feels like A Secret Death is making a desperate attempt at mainstream friendliness that feels, well, really awkward. I'm no hardline purist when it comes to clean vocals, though, and maybe if this track had shown up in some other context, I would have been more receptive to it, but it just doesn't work here.
The band also thought to have their 6-song EP, "Fear is the Driving Force" tacked on to the end of the CD version of the album. If anything, it just shows how far the band has come in three years. The songwriting has improved tenfold, and they've cast off a lot of terrible ideas. I won't go into detail, since the EP is more or less bonus material. That said, it's interesting to be able to compare the EP with the rest of the album, especially to see how much Cult of Luna's Magnus Lindberg brought to the table in terms of production.
Bottom Line: They don't reinvent the wheel, but who does these days The veritable melting pot of spottable influences makes the album feel a little bit faceless, but it's well-produced and really not a bad effort overall.Assuming these guys keep tightening things up and get past recycling their influences outright, there's some potential here.