In the metal genre, most well-known bands have all gone through a period of growth before they began to really hit their stride. Take a look at some of the best bands in contemporary metal today: Shadows Fall took several albums before they found their true niche, Mastodon needed a couple of years to perfect their sound, Lamb of God is just now hitting their stride on their third album; hell, even the great Meshuggah needed six or seven years before they finally knocked one out of the park with their masterful 1995 album Destroy Erase Improve. It's so rare to see a band sound fully realized on their debut release, especially in the demanding genre of heavy metal, where it's very tough for new artists to carve their own identity, but once in a while you get such a release, and Italian quintet The Secret have indeed pulled off such a feat.
It helps if the new band has some experience, and The Secret has just that, as several members were in the band From the Dying Sky, whose only album was released in 2000. The Secret not only incorporate different identifiable styles into their music, but the sounds they combine are fascinating at times. Their debut album, Luce, is Italian for "light", and I can assure you, this album is anything but. Over the course of the record, the band combines the hardcore grind influence of Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge, with the progressive modern metal of Meshuggah and The End, but, and this is where it really gets interesting, it all comes with a huge dose of epic heaviness that you'd expect from the likes of Neurosis and Isis. So, you get lots of frantically-paced songs with screaming hardcore vocals, but instead of lightning-fast bursts of hardcore aggression, the songs tend to run in the five, six-minute range. It helps that Luce is only 38 minutes long, so despite the lengthiness of some of the songs, it's still a very tight, concise piece of work.
After the doom sounds of the brilliantly titled instrumental "The Long Night of Mademoiselle Victorine Lafourcade", the record explodes out of the gate with the massive, Meshuggah-style riffs of "Memento Mori" and "Close to Me, Inside My Heart", the latter of which veers from extremely intense grindcore to slow, turgid, bludgeoning riffs and polyrhythms, and back again. After the especially strong death-goes-grind of "Fire Isn't Always Meant to Burn", the latter half of the disc really takes off. "The Last One" carries on like all the previous tracks, but suddenly, midway through, from out of nowhere, in enters a guitar solo that's as melodic as anything you'd have heard from Queensryche in the Eighties; just when you're thinking, "Wow, this fits perfectly," it's gone, and the song goes back to the previous aggressive arrangement, which dares to come close to rivaling the technical proficiency of Dillinger. "Segue" continues where that one solo left off, a very cool intro of guitar harmonies over a casual, almost indie rock drum beat and distorted bassline (so much so, you'd swear it was Superchunk, not some metal band), but staying true to its title, it segues right into "Pretty Girls Make Graves", which careens along, the band tinkering with time signatures often (but not to the point of annoyance), and again, midway through the song, comes a mellower breakdown, but this time, vocalist Marco Coslovich abandons his piercing hardcore scream, in favor of a terrific, mellow vocal style, actually daring to sing. And sing well he does, before the song goes into a an absolutely brutal thrash/metalcore breakdown.
Luce may exude confidence, but its glaring weakness is in vocalist Coslovich, as his hardcore wailing will get a "been there done that" reaction from many listeners, but when Coslovich does decide to employ more of a "clean" vocal sound, the music is elevated to another level. If The Secret ever decides to use more of those harmonies in their already very accomplished blend of progressive grind/what have you, then we could be in for something even better. In the meantime, this album will do just fine.