Secrets – Fragile Figures
Record Label: Rise Records
Release Date: July 23 2013
This year has mainly marked a lot of seasoned bands releasing their third or fourth records, while only a handful are releasing debut or sophomore records. Two bands who have been on my radar, as far as sophomore records go, are Australia’s Hands Like Houses, and California’s Secrets. Both bands have been prepping to release their respective sophomore records, especially after releasing solid debut records just last year. Hands Like Houses released the very impressive Ground Dweller, while Secrets released their debut record, The Ascent. I love Hands Like Houses a lot more, because they were (and still are) a breath of fresh air in the genre. Secrets, on the other hand, are a bit more formulaic and generic. They’re still enjoyable, and fun to listen to, but The Ascent didn’t really do much for me. It was worth a couple listens, but ultimately, it was rather boring and derivative, despite having some great choruses. Their melodic aspect was something I always did admire, however. Both bands finally came back this year with coming out with their sophomore records on the same day, actually. While this review is for Secrets’ new album, Fragile Figures, I bring up Hands Like Houses, because Unimagine, their sophomore record, is a prime example of how a band should improve. Don’t get me wrong, Fragile Figures is a solid album, and a step up from The Ascent, but not completely. Unimagine completely improved on everything that Hands Like Houses lacked in their debut record, which ultimately exceeded my expectations. Fragile Figures, on the other hand, is a bit better than The Ascent, but not by much.
For starters, Secrets was going through a bit of band “drama” last year, and I usually tend to dislike bands whose drama overshadows their music (with the exception of possibly Dance Gavin Dance, whose had more lineup changes than any other band in existence). Former harsh vocalist Xander Bourgeois left the band, with Aaron Melzer taking over. The main thing people were wondering is if Melzer would mesh with the band nicely, and he does, to some degree. A new vocalist can really influence how a band sounds, and I brought up Dance Gavin Dance earlier because they are a huge example of this. With their ever-changing lineup, for almost all of their records, they’ve had a change of vocalists, including upcoming record Acceptance Speech. And each of their records has had a very different sound, because every vocalist is different. Unless the vocalist doesn’t stick out in any way, and sadly, that’s kind of how Melzer is. His harsh vocals aren’t very distinctive, and eventually, just kind of fade into the background. When I think of this band, their harsh vocals are not something I think of. It’s the melodic part of their sound, and their clean vocalist (and guitarist) Richard Rogers that stand out. Thankfully, he hasn’t gone anywhere in the band, because he was my favorite part of The Ascent. His vocals weren’t generic, even if he was apart of generic clean choruses for a majority of the album. But his vocals were actually something to admire. I didn’t go into this record expecting him to be the focal point of the record, but that ended up what happened. Melzer and his harsh vocals were faded more into the background, and helping to add emotion and a dramatic effect than to just be heavy. This record is much more melodic than it’s predecessor, which I enjoy right off the bat. It almost reminds me of the new We Came As Romans record, Tracking Back Roots, which also came out at the same time, because that record took a much more melodic turn, with some breakdowns and screamed vocals. Both records do have an interesting change in sound, but not enough to really reinvent the wheel. Dance Gavin Dance and Hands Like House are bands that are really unique, and Secrets is just starting to get there.
As I said, I do enjoy the melodic aspect of this record. The choruses and hooks really come to the forefront, along with clean Richard Rogers making more of an impact. His voice has improved a bit since The Ascent, and he actually has more of a range this time around. That’s completely evident on first track “How We Survive.” This track really shows off the improvements as well the problems I still have. The good things are mainly just the clean vocals and sense of melody, but the problems are still a few noticeable. The instrumentation is a bit more technical this time around, partially also due to the production being a LOT better, but the breakdowns are still numerous and get boring after awhile. Not to mention, while I do enjoy new harsh vocalist Aaron Melzer, he’s nothing special, either. His screaming kind of just gets in the way of everything else. And in turn, it makes most of the songs on the record get muddled together, except for a few throughout, such as third track “Forever and Never,” fourth track “Artist vs. Who?,” sixth track “The Architect,” and seventh track “Maybe Next May.” There is one more song, but I will get to that in a bit. These songs, however, are ones with hooks that really do stick out to me. The hooks are enjoyable, for the most part, but they do get muddled in with the breakdowns and whatnot. Overall, though, they’re enjoyable tracks. I won’t lie when I say I don’t think this band or this record is really all that great, but it’s a step up.
The one song that also stands up I saved for last, because it’s the closing track, “Sleep Well, Darling.” This is the record’s attempt at a “slow” song. It’s an acoustic track, and while the idea is rather cliché, sometimes, they do hold up nicely. This song is one of them, actually. I will admit that the lyrics are rather generic, and it’s not only this song, but the entire record. This band is one of those bands on Rise Records (or any label, really) whose lyrics are mainly about breakups and love, which is what a lot of their fanbase can relate to, myself included. So while the lyrics are generic at times, like this song, it’s relatable, at least. And the fact that they do have a soft song closing out the record is always nice. It may be cliché, but it’s nice. It leaves a nice note in the listener’s ear, which is what this record ultimately achieves. It’s not a perfect album, for a few reasons, but it’s a nice step in the right direction. This band can easily be the next top post-hardcore/metalcore band that kids look up to, and if they keep improving, they can be one of the top bands in the genre to people like myself, who are rather picky with the post-hardcore they enjoy.