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Rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Ascent is the debut album from the post hardcore band Secrets. It was released January 16, 2012. The album debuted at number 3 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart, as well as the Billboard 200 at number 185. It is the only release to include original vocalist Xander Bourgeois before his departure in 2013.
Okay, I think it’s about time I acknowledge that I clearly have a pattern as far as my taste in post-hardcore goes. I have a thing for dual vocalization – clean and unclean – and driving instrumentation. I mean, just take a look at my favorite bands: Pierce the Veil, Issues, Sleeping with Sirens, Dance Gavin Dance, Of Mice and Men, The Amity Affliction, Memphis May Fire, From First to Last, Hands Like Houses, etc.! They all fit the mold. It is without a doubt this quality that drew me to my first listens of SECRETS.
I will concede this – it can tend towards the generical. There isn’t a whole lot of imagination put into the rock sound of tracks “The Oath,” “Blindside” and “The Ascent.” For reference, those are tracks 1, 8 and 12, respectively. That means, for me, the rest of the record is a slam dunk. The lyrics were criticized in general, but I happen to find most of the lyrics surprisingly deep (aside from “The Ascent” – “I’m drinking whiskey like water ’cause water does nothing for me.”) I was listening for the 10 millionth time to The Ascent when I noticed that I actually really dug a few.
For instance, the opening track, “Genesis,” starts off hard with Aaron Melzer’s throating “You think you’re better than everyone, but in the end you’re like a coward holding a gun,” and then leads into Xander Bourgeois’ chorus which proclaims “I’ll use analogies and simple harmonies to tell you you’re changing…” I’ll admit, they’re lyrics that sound better than they read. But holy shit! If you listen to the song… you’d fall in love. Because I know I did.
My favorite song of the album, track 3, “Somewhere in Hiding,” elects for this magnetic sound that encourages listeners to fall for the lyrics despite their lack of particular uniqueness. I can listen to this song for hours, and I mean hours, on end without gettin’ sick of it – I actually have.
Also, another pleasant surprise was the message laid plainly for all to see in “The Best You Can’t Be,” which tells the story of a boy whose father had abandoned him as a child. For some reason, the transparency of the lyrics, in this instance, actually works to this song’s benefit in presenting a bare-bones situation, a story to tell, with little flourish but a great sound.
All in all, no, SECRETS hasn’t reinvented any wheels with this record, but it is nevertheless a good one. The Wikipedia article reveals that an Under the Gun reviewer says of The Ascent, “It is nonetheless a hearty and ambitious effort and a compelling listen, strikingly good at best and entertaining even at worst,” and I think that is a perfect description.