Artist: Secret Keeper
Album: Ghost – EP
Have you ever had a dream where you’ve felt every detail was so vivid and precise that it was real life? That the people you surrounded yourself with were real, living and breathing people you’ve known for years? Men and women with families, jobs, mortgages—friends you did dumb shit with in high school, girls you love and had loved—the works. This whole universe so convincing you could swear it was your real life…only to wake up and have it slip like vapor through your fingers, breezing against your cheeks as it drifts away. The only thing left is a sense of longing—the knowledge that the life you live now isn’t as good as the life you could be living. A sense of misbelonging that lacks a name but is all too familiar to so many; the same feeling that defines the latest release from Florida’s resident sadboys, Secret Keeper. Ghost is an addictive EP that is as captivating as it is haunting, drawing the listener in with a blend of melodic hardcore and melancholy alternative and keeping them hooked with portions of spoken prose-poetry and haunting, harrowing emotional honesty. Bold and driving enough to break down barriers dividing genres, yet soft and subtle enough to lull a child to sleep, Secret Keeper’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Losing Sleep is one comeback you definitely won’t want to keep secret.
Secret Keeper—while not earning any additional points for length when it comes to their latest EP—do something precious few bands can manage, especially when it comes to melodic hardcore. Every track on Ghost is truly unique—this is as true vocally as it is instrumentally. The lead track, “Dwell,” for example, sees the band at their quickest and most aggressive—with percussionist Dylan Honkonen leading the song with hurried, dancy drumming that includes everything from fleet-footed two-steps to heavy-handed breakdowns guaranteed to send elbows flying. This is a stark contrast to “Ghost,” where Honkonen is practically absent, guiding the song with minimalist percussion that serves only to give the song a firm foundation. “Haunt” sees Honkonen working in a happy medium with bassist Michael Johnson, ebbing between raunchy breakdowns and riveting, still segments where guitarists Brian Brown and Thomas Filbert take center stage. Brown and Filbert take Honkonen’s bold backbone of bouncy drumming and sprawl outwards like ribs erupting from a spine. Adding warmth to “Ghost” and “Haunt” with clean, crystalline guitar lines while giving “Dwell” a gritty, grimy coat, Brown and Filbert lend variety to Secret Keeper in a way that is simply uncanny. This is especially true when it comes to “Gravestones,” an acoustic offering unlike anything the listener has heard yet from Secret Keeper. Beginning with “Dwells” driving, distorted riffing and ending with a catchy, folk-tinted and fun acoustic ballad, Secret Keeper use a sprawling array of intelligent, diverse musicianship to their advantage, ensuring the listener finds a new side of the band with every song on Ghost.
Thinking that Secret Keeper’s unbelievable display of variety ends with the instrumental aspects of Ghost is nothing short of a massive mistake. Those familiar with Losing Sleep already know—but if this is the first you’re hearing of Secret Keeper, you’re in for a treat. When one thinks “diverse” in the context of the vocals for a hardcore band, they likely think of a sprawling range of shrieks, screams and bellows; while those are all wonderful, they apply very little to Secret Keeper’s frontman, Kyle Burrier. Burrier breaks into Ghost with a gruff, gritty mid-range yell in “Dwell,” but it doesn’t last long—as the chorus kicks in, the listener is greeted with a beautifully sung clean voice (juxtaposed against aggressive, emotional yelling). This sort of dynamic keeps “Dwell” roaring along, dominating well into “Haunt,” where Burrier introduces a Hotel Books-esque spoken segment: the very same segment that fills 80% of the EP’s title track. Perhaps now you’re beginning to grasp what makes Secret Keeper’s vocals as immersive and intriguing as they are. Burrier takes second-to-none lyricism and delivers it in a vector of varied, visceral vocals. If you don’t have the chorus to either “Dwell” or “Haunt” rattling around in your head for weeks, it’s only because “Gravestones” got there first.
If the variety and emotional complexity of the four tracks Secret Keeper bring to the listener on Ghost isn’t enough to compel a listen among even the most skeptic ears, then there is nothing else that can be done. While Ghost is short—especially with only two of the songs feeling like “full” efforts from the band—the release still packs more than enough content to make it worthwhile. Fans who spent weeks playing Losing Sleep back to back might find Ghost light on quantity, but even so, there is no arguing the density and diversity when it comes to the quality therein. With passages that will slow time and lines that will stop the listener’s heart dead in their chest, Ghost is without a doubt still the same band that took 2015 by storm—and with many months left in 2016, it’s safe to say we likely haven’t heard the last of Secret Keeper’s sorrowful sound.
For Fans Of: Touché Amore, Turnover, Citizen, Capsize, Hotel Books, Pianos Become the Teeth
By: Connor Welsh