Secret Rule – Against Review

I suspect you’ve heard the phrase “I literally can’t even” before. If you haven’t, this little nugget of Internet slang means just what it sounds like. Those were my only words when I reached the penultimate track (“My Last Breath”) of Secret Rule’s latest album Against. My emotions bubbled over, and my brain had difficulty processing what I was subjecting my ears to. Ghastly synths that sounded distressingly like drills made an appearance a number of times, and the only thing I could relate the song to was a trip to the dentist. “My Last Breath” will have you envisioning yourself in a glossy, plastic-covered dentist chair. The dental hygienist will gently assure you that the dentist will be in shortly. Meanwhile, you will hear the disconcerting sounds of drills and metal clinking form down the hallway boring into your skull while you wait to have your own pearly whites inspected. Even the vocals “hear my scream” fit the scenario. Shiver.

Secret Rule is an Italian quartet gracing the metal scene with their fifth studio album. Reading through the band’s promo gave me a glimmer of hope that I got my hands on something exciting. They’ve shared the stage with the likes of Xandria and Delain and are recommended for fans of Within Temptation, all three of which are exuberant bands full of energy and marked by grandiose, winsome sounds. Secret Rule certainly are a bumbling ball of energy, but they don’t quite have the alluring and beautiful ambiance in their sound which bands like Mother Earth/The Silent Force-era Within Temptation employ. Looking back at Diabolus in Muzaka‘s review of Secret Rule in 2016 before giving the band a first listen, I came to the realization that Against might not be as sweet a treat as I was anticipating. Let it be known, however, that I did my best to give Secret Rule a fair chance and avoided letting my coworker’s response to their 2016 album Machination sink in and bias my own opinion. Alas, I tried.

Secret Rule is, in its truest form, candy-coated goth and industrial-tinged rock metal, and Against is as cookie-cutter as it gets. It’s only been a year since the band released their fourth album The 7 Endless, and Against makes it apparent that they could have used a few more years to strengthen their fundamentals and musicianship before subjecting the world to their creations. Against blends heavy riffs with over-the-top, industrial electronica, to their detriment. Listening to Secret Rule’s amateur use of electronics and cheesy, industrial synthesizers is as overpowering as drinking fish sauce straight up. It’s truly a shame that Secret Rule’s plasticky sound consistently snatches the spotlight from vocalist Angela Di Vincenzo. The dense layers of Angela’s voice on “Shades of Humanity” make up some of my favorite moments on the album, so it’s too bad that the weird overwhelming electronics in the opening moments on this song and others (“Against”) so frequently take center stage.

Second on the list of my biggest gripes with Against is the mediocre song-writing. The guitar solos feel lazy, as if the guitarist was watching a dull, television sitcom while composing (“Deep Solitude”), and several of the songs meander without direction, particularly and fittingly “Going Nowhere.” Besides Angela’s powerhouse vocals, the only thing Against has going for it is its catchiness. Intro song “Spira Mirabilis” is annoyingly memorable, as is third track “Rise Again.” I do believe Secret Rule have the potential to do better, as I caught glimpses of Delain (“Purgatory”) and *whisper* Amaranthe (if that’s your jam — Amaranthe isn’t appreciated much around these parts) while listening to Secret Rule’s twelve tracks. The ultra-compressed, glitchy electronics simply engulf Secret Rule’s spunk, and all my ears were drawn to was the ultra-glossy and over-produced sound.

There’s no doubt that Against gets your blood pumping. Thus, I maintain that the best time and place for Secret Rule is in the gym. I don’t revel in dishing out scores on the lower end of the spectrum. Doing so isn’t fun for me, nor is it especially fun for the band. I can only hope that this feedback reaches Secret Rule and helps them to reflect on their past work and perhaps use it to inform how they approach writing music in the future — if they decide this feedback will aid in their escape from the confines of being labeled pump-up gym tunes, that is.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Pride and Joy Music
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 21st, 2020

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