On their fifth album, Secret Rule bring symphonic power metal from Italy in the vein of Delain and Nightwish.
Starting out in 2014, Italy’s Secret Rule has released six albums with Against being fifth and the recent Quarantine: The other side of us cover album coming out in 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.Since Transposed Emotions in 2015, the band has toured and shared the stage with the likes of Xandria, Delain, Kobra & the Lotus, and Cellar Darling. The band has also managed to bring in some high-level guest talent on albums including: Aylin (Sirenia), Stefan Helleblad (Within Temptation), Henrik Klingenberg (Sonata Arctica), Timo Somers (Delain), Sander Zoer (Delain, Leah), Henning Basse (Mayan, Firewind), which certainly adds to their credibility and potential as a band.
Against opens up with short keyboard-heavy intro and launches directly in to a groove-heavy power metal track immediately highlighting the vocals from Angel Di Vencenzo. When a European band mentions influences like Nightwish and Delain, one does go into the listening experience with a certain set of preconceived notions and given those bands, strong female vocals are a given and Angela delivers. As one would expect from power metal, production is clean and vocals are particularly distinct.
“Shades of Humanity” introduces some of what I would label odd keyboard moments on the album. The brief section in the intro just doesn’t seem to fit very well with the rest of the song. The song also introduces the harsh male vocals which do introduce a contrast but don’t seem to fit within the context of the song. The variations and layers of Angela’s vocals really stand out on this track but the keyboards, male vocals, and the restrained guitar solo do take away from the potential impact the song could have.
“Rise Again” is another bright spot on the album with its driving riff and subdued keyboards that provide a nice accent to the guitars. The rhythm section of Michele Raspanti (bass) and Alex Beccati (drums) carry the song along and provide a solid base for the rest of the band. In contrast, “Going Nowhere” plays more to a more atmospheric, keyboard-heavy approach for much of the song, which thankfully doesn’t detract from Angela’s vocals. “Digital Revolution” brings the keyboards back to a more central role in the overall sound and from a structure standpoint, is somewhat reminiscent of the previous track in having the verse sections being performed in part without guitars. Overall the song seems to gain momentum and impact when the keyboards retreat to a supporting role in the overall sound.
Secret Rule do have that inherent hook in many of their tracks that catches your ear and there is enough heaviness in some of the riffs to please the metal masses, but there is a bit of inconsistency in the songs and too much odd keyboard parts, like some of the ones in “Purgatory”. The song has its heavy moments but the keyboards to get in the way as well as the harsh male vocals in a way similar to “Shades of Humanity”.
The intro to the title track finally made me understand what my biggest issue with the album is and that is overproduction. The drums and keyboards in the beginning section just seem completely out of place and I would have preferred the track to just kick off with the guitars. A similar trend carries through into the verse sections where the parts with guitars are so much better than the parts without. The other issue I have is that some of the songs sound very much like things I’ve heard before and the pummeling riffs in “My Last Breath” instantly took me to other albums I’ve heard with a similar staccato guitar riff.
Overally, Secret Rule have pulled together a collection of tracks, where some are catchy, while others seem a bit derivative, but all showcase the vocals of Angela Di Vincenzo which edges them closer to some of the bands they’ve toured with like Delain and Xandria.
Written by John Jackson
1. Spira Mirabilis
2. Shades Of Humanity
3. Rise Again
4. Going Nowhere
5. Digital Revolution
6. Endless Promises
9. Deep Solitude
11. My Last Breath
12. Don’t Let Me Fade
Angela Di Vincenzo (Vocal),
Andy Menario (Guitar & Keys),
Michele Raspanti (Bass)
Alex Beccati (Drums)
Record Label: Feb. 21st 2020
Record Label: Pride & Joy Music
Video for ‘Purgatory‘
Video for ‘Shades Of Humanity’