Asheville, North Carolina, deathrock collective Secret Shame have honed an atmospherically cathartic and emotionally-driven rock sound. It’s seriously dark but we are absolutely hooked on it.
This is a band that isn’t afraid to address some of the most difficult to discuss issues affecting society, from domestic abuse and mental health to political frustration.
Underpinning these themes, they have honed an intriguing sound led by the mesmerising vocals of frontwoman Lena, alongside reverb-soaked instrumentals and piercing melodies. The first word that comes to mind is “dark,” so it’s interesting that the first song they sent us to listen to was called Dark, the first single from their upcoming album Dark Synthetic, which is out on 6 September.
The track opens up with a spooky little opening riff then a lively, Eastern-sounding little high-pitched lick over rolling chords and drums. Lena’s vocals seriously dark vocals “Carcassed shell of animal, Help me hurt you, Unbeknownst to heathen lives you will adapt to what heals and break it down” come in, meandering over a lively instrumental backdrop that’s soon joined by a soaring synth sound as Lena hits some big high notes.
The second verse opens up with the line “Modern Quasimodo it lives
Help me hurt you, Help me open up your eyes, I want to see worlds through your skull and break it down.” Descending guitars soon come in under Lena’s lower vocals an intimidating atmosphere builds, then bursts back into a more upbeat concoction of Lena’s soaring vocals and lively guitars. Give it a listen below:
That’s since been followed by the release of Calm, which we can only assume has been named with tongue well and firmly in cheek. Sure enough, it starts calmly with a little plodding riff and light drums under Lena’s echoey vocals “Fight it, Trust in him subsides as lying lips bleed rhymes, And confuse themselves, convince themselves they are Christ themselves.” The guitars pick up and lead us into a big atmospheric chorus of guitars and dreamy repeats of “Calm me down or I am going to burn up (As soon as I fit my head round you, you’re gone).”
Another more laid-back second verse delves into the wonderful, yet severely dark lyrics “Tell me, when did you become a motherfucker and how has it served you in life?, Serve you on golden platters, It isn’t abuse if she’s losing her mind, And when the path is dark, All the girls thank you for choking the life out of them. Come submit to submission – the feminine psyche craves to die by your hand, I’ll convince you myself, Prescription decisions feed the beast that desires.”
By the end of the track it’s anything but calm with a little guitar lick coming in Lena’s unrelenting high-pitched repeats of “Gouge your mind, Calm me down or I am going to burn.” It’s intense, gothic, dark yet beautiful and brilliant, and we can’t wait to hear what else the album brings us.
We had a chat with the band around the release of Dark, read on below…
GR: Who are Secret Shame?
SS: “Matthew and Ryynikki were working with some material and found Lena through an Oracle 20/20 add. After the tragic death of the original drummer and synth player in a mysterious plane crash, the band invited Nathan, who’d released the first EP, to join.
“Billie kept showing up at members’ houses at odd hours of the night with a boom box playing a Basinskian tape loop of whispers asking to join. After an intensive hazing process rivalling that of a 32nd-degree Freemason, they were finally admitted entry into the band.”
GR: You just released Dark and you’ve got an album on the way. What should people be expecting from them?
SS: “It’s cliche to say a lot of blood-sweat-and-tears went into something. I don’t know whose blood it is, but it’s definitely there. The album encapsulates a year and a half of struggle, and at times we feared we wouldn’t reach the point of sharing it.”
GR: How did you find the experience of creating your debut album?
SS: “We sought out The Ward and specifically Ricky Olson because we’d heard albums he’d recorded and knew he’d be able to capture the sound we were going for. It was our first time in a real studio, so that alone was exciting. He made the whole thing enjoyable while tolerating our bullshit. Ricky Olson is such a dreamboat of an engineer.”
GR: How would you describe your sound to people that haven’t listened to you yet?
SS: “That moment in Arvo Part’s Stabat Mater right before it hits when everything breaks for a second and whatever the one dude says in Latin sounds like ‘..fuck.'”
GR: What influences you to write music? Any key themes or topics that you write about?
SS: “We have to write music. It’s one of the most complicated things to do, but also the most rewarding. It’s the only way we know how to get our emotions out of us.
“All of the lyrics for Dark Synthetics are focused around domestic abuse, mental health, and drug abuse. There will probably be different themes as we write more, but with the same melodramatic and sarcastic lyrical shit.”
GR: Which bands/musicians are/have been your strongest musical influences?
Matthew: “The Cure, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Bjork.”
Ryynikki: “Joy Division, The Cure, the Appalachian ballads”
Nathan: “Grave Pleasures, Soft Kill, Horror Vacui.”
Lena: “Bjork, Sinead O’Conner, Xmal Deutschland, Robert Smith’s attitude.”
Billie: “The Cramps, Rudimentary Peni, Skinny Puppy.”