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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

The Secret City

The Secret City

Review by G. W. Hill

With their eponymous titled debut disc, The Secret City have created a piece of art that speaks on many levels. Its musical footprint occupies a unique place, but calls to mind some familiar elements. Their sound is essentially modern progressive rock, but that’s really just sort of a starting point for them.

While the music won’t appeal to everyone (it definitely has a bit of a “weirdness factor”) this is highly creative and compelling music. The vocals are sometimes a bit off-key, but it’s in a charming way. This is an exceptionally strong disc that bodes well for the future of The Secret City.

Track by Track Review
My View from Here

Drums lead the album off feeling very jazzy as “My View from Here” starts. Keyboards join in a rubbery, sultry kind of groove and the vocals come over the top in a dreamy kind of Adrian Belew like way. Other instruments are added and the track grows organically. When it bursts out to the harder rocking section it seems to have an almost Pink Floyd-like atmosphere, but those vocals still call to mind King Crimson. It’s a cool tune that alternates between the harder rocking and mellower stylings.

Soulless

This has a similar vocal performance, but yet the chorus vocals have almost a Todd Rundgren feeling. It works in with a harder rocking edge and has more modern alternative rock on the table, but it still alternates between more crunchy music and mellower more melodic sounds. This continues the general music themes of the opener, but in a motif that has few similarities to the opening track. There is almost a Rush type vibe at times, and King’s X would also be a valid reference.

Considerable Love

Starting in a piano based ballad approach, “Considerable Love” feels a lot more like a modern alternative rock tune as it gets charged up with guitars. One might hear Radiohead in the mix, yet some of the guitar sounds are still rather like Pink Floyd at times. Either way, it’s a big change of pace, although the hard edged jam that comes later is closer to the previous tracks. There’s even a bit of a soulful groove on the closing section.

Changing Channels

This is perhaps a bit less interesting than the first few cuts. It’s not that it’s a bad song, or a huge change of pace. It’s just that the sound of the piece is a little more mainstream in an alternative rock vein. There certainly is more Radiohead in the mix and the vocal arrangement on the chorus is quite tasty.

Where will it end?

There’s almost a Beatles meets Radiohead and King’s X vibe to “Where will it end?” While it remains mellower than the earlier tunes, it rocks out too much to be considered a true ballad. Although, the first section might be alright under that label. The cut does get reinvented later as it builds out to a more vocally driven section.

Present Moment

This is mellow, but certainly not a ballad. The music has an artsy sort of melodic tone. It’s rather bouncy, but yet low key. The vocals seem to continue that Beatles kind of thing a bit.

This Is For You

This piece starts on acoustic instrumentation after a quick “what tempo have you got.” It turns very energetic and folky as it continues. It calls to mind some of the acoustic folk based music of Led Zeppelin and is actually quite intricate and pretty. That little spoken bit on the introduction represents the only vocals on the cut.

Barrage of Absence

“Barrage of Absence” is arguably the strongest tune on the disc. It’s got a great psychedelic vibe and feels a lot like something David Bowie would have done around the time of Hunky Dory. It gets symphonic and space rock elements added and the vocal performance is quite passionate and powerful. Those vocals take it essentially unaccompanied near the end on a major rant. It’s very effective.

Elfie

Here is another contender for best cut on the disc. It starts with a pretty standard alternative rock approach, but gradually grows out to something more like a powerful progressive rock arrangement. It works out to more freeform space before a quick burst of sound ends it.

A Call

This is an energetic tune that seems like an almost perfect blending of Belew era King Crimson with Radiohead, but some might hear U2 on the chorus. It’s a powerful cut, and another that really stands out.

Consequence

“Consequence” is a much mellower tune than a lot of the stuff on the disc. It’s more closely tied to alternative pop but has some great spacey elements, too. While it doesn’t really stand out, part of that’s just because so many of the other songs (and particularly the one that preceded it) are so strong. It does get more crunch and power later in the tune, though.

Consumption Machine

The only track that’s really questionable is the closer “Consumption Machine.” It’s more noisy art than song, with disparate musical elements fighting in an uncomfortable way while a spoken vocal (with some sung non-lyrical voices) completes the picture. As odd and rather jarring as it is, somehow it makes for an effective closing.

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