Absolutely demented. In the day and age where black metal, crust and hardcore are slowly becoming more familiar bedfellows, we’re seeing all ends of the punk and metal spectrum laying with others in the grimiest of depths. The results are fantastically putrid, churning, heavy stuff.
In that vein, Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, guys!) trio Secret Cutter secretly stole away with the ugliest daughters of industrial, sludge, grindcore and ‘Jane Doe’-era Converge – the end product is a visceral, corrosive cacophonic crawl which unsettle your bones, churn your organs and put your hairs on edge. Even if it is a little lacking in some parts.
Mind you, it may not necessarily be a lack as far as the music’s concerned, more a meditative, furious thumping, as the Captain Obvious titled ‘Introduction’ simply hammers you over the head slowly and consistently with low-slung guitar, bass, plodding drums and shrieks.
Keeping sickly but focused on bludgeoning, ‘Trampled by Light’ gnashes through this simple riff with rolling double kicks, chugs and industrial-sounding arpeggios, feeling like Strapping Young Lad trapped in the snow overdosing on heroin. Yes, that grim and out there. Huge repetitive open-string chugs and crashing drums plod this number along in drones so visceral you can feel your insides separating. There’s a real mix of the overtly clinical production tones mixed with pure raw filth, such as the contrast of those chugs with harsh, abrasive leads, and screams that range from droning barks to startling, pained howls.
None of this is friendly, so far. It’s a nauseating mix, and it’s entrancing and hypnotic.
Mechanical scraping sounds and blastbeats throw us off-guard from the semi-conscious state as ‘Bended Knee’ briefly snaps us out of it before throwing the shroud of simple, pummelling sludge over us once again. A diseased shroud, I might add – the sickly mix of piercing feedback and random atonal notes giving an air of unease throughout. Regardless of this appearing as fairly straightforward fare, the reaction it instils in us so is melancholic, it actually becomes quite harrowing.
‘4 ½ Street’ uses that emotional turmoil to the bands’ advantage, giving a promise of false hope once again with an energetic intro, disguised as a marching-band rhythmic feel and almost corrugated-iron leads. Almost feels like it might swing up into some dusty corner of K.M.F.D.M’s catalogue, albeit drenched in sewage. A relentlessly consistent barrage of simple, caustic riffs gives that impression until we’re hit with a ‘chorus’ of despondent wails and screams that feels like Poison The Well if you’d fed them benzodiazepenes and punched them in the head, hard. Raspier and raspier screams pierce right through the listener, dropping out amongst a couple of non-distorted but still unclean chords.
You really haven’t got much time to process things, however, ‘cause here comes ‘Transience’. True to its’ title, the track comes and goes in a scraping, screeching wall of droning riffs as before, but in between all the bleeping, blasting, ringing chords and endless wailing and screeching, the tempo picks up pace more and more as it goes. Finally, the drums clatter and crash and shove everything out one gigantic messy breakdown riff, tumbling out the door. Gingerly picking yourself up after that last bowl-over, vomit rising, you’ve got no time to think about being sick as ‘Vow of Obedience’ sucker-punches every inch of you, splattering crashing drums and frantic riffs into 38 seconds of industrial grindcore violence you never knew you wanted. By now, it’s almost Stockholm Syndrome as you let this brief number beat you senseless, happily embracing the violence.
But, just like that, Secret Cutter back off, a wolf giving its’ prey the illusion of safety. ‘Mantis’, clearly an ode to a shifty-looking member of the insect world, opens with big sludge riffage and feedback for days. This one opens with more pomp and grandeur and, dare I say, melody? A quick drum roll turns the song on its’ exposed underbelly, revealing a churning version of Mastodon’s early works in terms of straight, heavy, stomping riffs. Just when you thought things were creeping back to a more traditional feel, the mantis flips back over and strikes. A sickly, scraping main riff peels off in layers, slowly descending further into a chasm of long, slow chords and some slow, bluesy trills of guitar, drum and bass.
By this stage, you’ve just given up on expectations. ‘Doormat’ furiously encourages you to have done so, kicking in with a rocking High on Fire chaotic, sludge/stoner hybrid riff with a slightly industrial feel. It’s almost as though, with this album, we’d stumbled upon the half-decayed, rotting and mangled remains of semi-human cyborgs. There’s a real contrast between clean, crisp tones and absolutely fuzz-washed mayhem going on. This coating of clear and fuzzy helps keep things on their toes, as the relentless banging of open string chugs is actually starting to wear a bit in places.
Well, that was definitely said too soon – as though the band can read minds, ‘Delayed Choice’ goes straight for the grindcore jugular, bursting back out the door with all teeth bared. Thrashing and flailing, even when things slow back down to that familiar stomping tempo, we’ve got this weird, hectic mix of a blastbeat here, a chug there that isn’t quite Dillinger Escape Plan math-metal, but certainly ain’t right, either. Tight drum rolls between rolling open chords sound out the rest of this awesomely-haphazard track. Did we suffer head trauma before? Things are getting blurry. ‘Avalanche’ literally just spends the next couple of minutes punching us in the head over, and over, and over, a sludge ball that smacks the life from us.
Finally, we’ve got some time to sit down and breathe, reorient ourselves as closer ‘Oblivion’ just crashes wave after wave of slow, menacing sludge over us. Those shrieks, hardcore barks and yelps that have permeated the whole album remain here, clanging alongside weird effects that sound like angry bees underwater. Backing off more and more through the track, the finisher just moves into simpler and rawer doom, more distorted bass, bigger chords and slower drums, nodding off in a toxic haze as the album rings out.
My, oh my. That was an experience. Not the most innovative or game-changing material, but definitely a masterclass in how to weaponise and harness diverse gritty subgenres the seedy underbelly of heavy music. If you want an album that is potentially biologically hazardous, lumbering and razor-sharp all at once? Give this dirty caustic mess of lovely, warm filth a big hug with your ears. Enjoyably nasty business.
Visit Secret Cutter on Bandcamp HERE