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Secret Chord – Aurora

Secret Chord
Aurora
by Leanne Evans at 22 April 2021, 10:54 PM

Following their EP, “Dimensions of a Dream”, back in 2017, SECRET CHORD emerge from their hiatus, with a changed line-up, and their eclectic shades of sound as a fusion of the heavy and melodic. Fronted by female vocalist Raquel Subtil, the Portuguese outfit was initially born in 2015 and their debut album, “Aurora”, marks the return of SECRET CHORD’s contrast of honeyed vocals and untamed growling – the “Beauty and the Beast” style, if you will - combined with rhythmic riffs and melody, making for an interesting listening experience. The nine-track album is a brooding introspection and offers an emotionally self-observant thematic, sonically thrusting contemplative musings with SECRET CHORD’s manifest unique style.

An enticing and gripping prelude emerges in opening track “Dawn”, immediately announcing the dark thematic of “Aurora” and dazzling in atmospheric tones. There’s a haunting steadiness about it with a dramatic whirr of mellowness, until a steady drum line opens and chug of bass kicks in, and everything crescendos into pure blistering sound. Afonso’s drums bound in and transpire as an infectious syncopated rhythm in “Everything Repeats”, enhancing the resigned acceptance of monotonous existence. Carlos’ darkened guttural vocals contrast well with Raquel’s sweetened tone, again, creating immense depth to the track.

The contrasting vocals Raquel and Carlos project mostly work well, but there are times within “Aurora” where they don’t always compliment and almost hinder the aural enjoyment. “Lack of Contact” unfortunately highlights the sonic incompatibility, which is unfortunate, because the track is instrumentally very confident and has the makings of something spectacular. It’s mid-tempo, yet picks up with double-bass drumming, but the attempt at cleaner sounding male vocals detracts from the beauty of this composition, especially as they sound off-key. There’s a lot of layers to this piece, which definitely add to the urgent and traumatic thematic, but the displaced male vocals, with both the attempt at a more polished projection and the abrasive growls, offer no enhancement to the track and are incongurous to the overall sound.

Fortunately, there aren’t too many occasions like this on “Aurora”, it’s mostly a beautiful record with plenty of accordantly melodic moments to enjoy. “Trust in Yourself” picks up that expert easy-listening brilliance that SECRET CHORD nail when they get it right, displaying a catchy hook and great picking techniques, giving the guitars a pleasant crispness. A mostly mid-tempo track is interspersed with bouts of aggression, with the now familiar growls of Carlos, and some interesting drum line rhythm changes, which wonderfully pull you to and fro. As a listener, you almost feel that you’re caught in a personal mental conflict, as if trapped in your mind, torn. It works fantastically.

SECRET CHORD has multiple dimensions to their identity, making them an intriguing outfit to ponder and really immerse yourself in. “Empowerment” thrusts with power and certitude, especially when Carlos comes bounding in with his aggression, and Nuno’s deep bass line creates a solid bed of sound. Raquel, once again, mesmorises and conveys a wonderful vulnerability in her vocals, although, overall, strength really emanates with the contrasting vocal delivery. Now to move on to my personal highlight of “Aurora”

“Egocentric Lust”. Where in the hell did this delightfully captivating beauteous composition come from?! This is a striking masterpiece, utter flawless perfection that draws you in from the start and has you hypnotised right to the end. When SECRET CHORD do a track well, my God, they’re a stroke of genius and absolutely triumph! From the gentle lilting guitar to start, that then builds-up into a complete wall of sound, through to the drum line that washes through perfectly, it’s wonderful. For anyone who has experienced narcissistic ‘love’, this will resonate; I implore you to take in the simple, but profound, lyrics, delivered with conviction by the talented Raquel. This track, along with “Empowerment”, was written by João; his creativity really shines in his writing, especially since both tracks are my personal highlights of the album. The whole band, as a collective, really come into their own in “Egocentric Lust”; the composition structure, lyrical genius, the guitar solo coupled with the guitar harmonies, the vocal strength, EVERYTHING. It’s goosebump inducing brilliance.

Initially listening to SECRET CHORD, I found them reminiscent of DRACONIAN, in terms of the emotive vocal conflict, but with a more upbeat sonic about them, with shades of EVANESCENCE and LACUNA COIL about them, and more progressive overtones within a heavy metal remit. They’re certainly very clever in their craft, portraying emotion through sound, with the whole of “Aurora” displaying inner struggles instrumentally and the battle between the vocalists representing something much deeper and darker. When Carlos gets his vocals right, he adds real depth to the tracks and it often heightens the experience. Personally, I would prefer SECRET CHORD to showcase more solos from Raquel, as seen in “Egocentric Lust”, since she has such a great tone, vocal range and her voice almost speaks for itself. Overall, to say that this is the band’s first album, I think it’s a cracker and they should be very proud of their achievement.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Dawn
2. Everything Repeats
3. Lack of Contact
4. Trust in Yourself
5. Empowerment
6. Egocentric Lust
7. Never Again
8. Sickness
9. Demon Angels
Lineup:
Raquel Subtil – Lead Vocalist
Carlos Pereira – Guitar and backing vocals
João Conceição – Guitar
Afonso Martins – Drums
Nuno Fidalgo – Bass
Record Label: Sleaszy Rider SRL
     


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