Last year, I disregarded Secrets as a generic post-hardcore band that wouldn’t go places. Tons of bands like the San Diego quintet exist today, and many of them inject their music with sugar and spice to cover up their blatant use of gimmicks and lacking capabilities as a band. Rise Records churns out numerous records a year from groups like this, and few of them go on to really prove their worth beyond the typical genre mold. And while Secrets fails to break the mold on their sophomore release, they have expanded it on a much grander scale. Rarely am I really blown away by records that sound like Fragile Figures, but Secrets has perfected their sound and maxed out the talents of each individual member to the point where their second record is a catchy, potent and surprisingly enticing endeavor.
One of the main reasons why Fragile Figures (ironically) ascends from the mediocrity of The Descent is the addition of Aaron Melzer’s powerful screamed vocals. In fact, the album very much focuses on vocals. It’s obvious that the band toyed with the mix of cleans and screams, working them in alongside the smooth instrumentation and figuring out how they could make the tracks as memorable as possible. As a result, songs like “Ready For Repair” and “Wasted Youth (Part 1)” are astoundingly catchy – and most of the rest of the album follows suit.
Musically, Fragile Figures is a huge step forward from the band’s debut. “Artist vs. Who?” uses eerie undertones and angst-ridden melodies to give the track some meat, while the vocal sensibility and anger-filled guitars of “The Architect (Part 2)” demonstrates just how staunch Secrets’ sound has become. The band has begun to utilize their brisk versatility between members, and that allows many of the tracks to stand out. Unlike a lot of post-hardcore, verses and choruses throughout the album are actually a ton of fun to sing and scream along to – the vocals aren’t overproduced, and the vocalists come across as impassioned and capable.
While the breakdowns are juicy and the melodies are spirited a majority of the time, the instrumentation can still be fairly generic at times – and that ends up being the album’s biggest weakness. In some of the songs, the guitars feel tired. The title track brings the trite sound of The Ascent back to mind, and the riffage in tracks like “Forever and Never” and “Infinite Escape” lacks the pungency of some of the album’s heavier cuts. But while Secrets’ sound is often lacking in terms of freshness, it’s a major step up from their last record. Much of this comes from the production, which has more pop and sharpness. The guitars, bass and drums feel stronger, and they go hand-in-hand with the vocals in terms of energy. Despite the formula being predictable, the music expands the band’s former post-hardcore mold to its outer limits.
The quintet even tries some new things – for instance, the mostly-acoustic closer, “Sleep Well, Darling.” It’s evident from this track that Richard Rogers has an incredible singing voice, if that wasn’t demonstrated enough in the first 10 tracks. The closer exemplifies the easy digestiveness of Secrets’ sound and lyrics, and while it may be a negative in terms of depth, it gives the songs appeal (not to mention sing-along ability). Most of Fragile Figures’ lyrics deal with relationships and/or breakups, and the record may come off as overkill for listeners looking for a more reflective experience. Instead, the album is blatant and to-the-point, and the palpable musical approach makes the effort balanced as a whole.
Fragile Figures makes up for the severely lacking new album from Sleeping With Sirens, and it complements the exquisiteness of the new Hands Like Houses by offsetting Unimagine’s mysticality with a straightforward, in-your-face attitude. Along with Hands Like Houses, I am not afraid to say that Secrets may be the next Blessthefall, We Came As Romans or Memphis May Fire. They may not be the most original post-hardcore band to enter the scene in the past few years, but, as showcased in Fragile Figures, Secrets has the capability to produce some incredibly memorable tunes.
Post-Hardcore | Rise Records