The Metal Examiner: The Secret’s Solve Et Coagula

Every Friday, The Metal Examiner delves metal’s endless depths to present the genre’s most important and exciting albums.

The Secret: Solve Et CoagulaThe Secret: Solve Et Coagula (Southern Lord, 9/28/10)

The Secret: “Double Slaughter”

The Secret: “Double Slaughter”

When Goodfellow Records folded this year, Italian grindcore/black-metal quartet The Secret found itself momentarily without a label following a pair of raging, nihilism-fueled full-length albums.  Those releases suggested (if not insisted) that the group had something new to bring to European metal’s increasingly crowded table.

In the wake of the former label’s dissolution (and the band’s countless lineup changes since), The Secret attempts to regain its footing on Solve Et Coagula, its first outing for Southern Lord and an album almost workmanlike in its sound, structure, and unwavering metal attack.

Nothing on Solve Et Coagula even hints at lessening that punch.  There are no stops and no clean guitars, and the only tempo changes move from sludgy, noise-soaked slow grooves (like opener “Cross Builder”) to relentless thrash assaults (like “Death Alive”).

Because of this single-mindedness, standouts like “Pursuit Of Discomfort” are usually followed by more expected, by-the-books numbers such as “Weatherman.”  The album’s scant 35 minutes, however, might imply that it wasn’t designed as an adventure but rather a challenge, the band almost daring the listener to turn away.

Though The Secret’s influences stem from a multitude of bands, the group just as clearly owes a debt to a few specific others, from the Pig Destroyer-esque downbeat grind of “Antitalian” to the time-honored death template laid out by Death on “Bell Of Urgency,” to the vague snare-happy nod to early Mastodon on “Eve Of The Last Day.” But this constant shuffling lets Solve Et Coagula walk the line between a compelling listen and an outright unsettling musical experience: drums a-pounding, bass almost wiped entirely from the mix, guitars firing in unison, and vocals screamed into pure all-in-the-red-all-the-time distortion without pause and without hesitation.

But whatever the mode, the band shows time and again that it knows how to write a great riff, even if not always how best to employ it. By the time the over-the-top circular grind of “1968” yields to a droning guitar beneath Charles Bukowski reading his cataclysmic “Dinosauria, We,” the album has left its finest moments to stand not as a statement but yet another hint at things to come (or, if not a hint, then perhaps a well-sharpened threat). The band may have lost a label and a member or two, but the abrasiveness that defined it from the outset still burns as brightly as ever, lighting the way as The Secret follows itself further into darkness.

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