Hailing from Bethlehem, PA, Secret Cutter christened early 2014 with their sleeper hit of a self-titled debut LP. Their sole release following their 2009 EP, If You Don’t Hate Yourself You Aren’t Paying Attention, Secret Cutter drenches their songs in vicious, blood-churning sludge grind. The self-produced album was released all the way back in February, with surprisingly not much ado made about it. Their Bandcamp highlights several reviews from various publications – CVLT Nation, Pitchfork and Metal Insider among them – the latter raising the question of why notable metal labels such as Relapse Records and Southern Lord weren’t fight over Secret Cutter. It is understandable why such a question would be raised. Their sound is familiar, while being all their own simultaneously. The album’s pacing is nothing short of perfect, with none of the ten songs overstaying its welcome, making for a release that is neither overly long or underwhelming. At times the production leaves something to be desired, especially in earlier tracks like “Mirror Mirror” and “Deformed Eye,” with the drums and vocals being drowned in the guitar’s explosive furor.
Elsewhere on the album, the sound is distorted to a comfortable degree, with the vocals cushioned between hammering guitar, ghostly feedback and bludgeoning kit. The three-piece succeeds at conjuring monstrous sound from their minimalist setup, fluctuating from knuckle-dragging heavy to rapid bombast with ease. Opening track “Mirror Mirror” is melodic at its midsection in a way the rest of the album never again reaches for, which is disappointing considering the forlorn power that the moment imbues. Where Self Titled fails to keep that soullessness, it succeeds in being punishing throughout. Despite this ferocity, the LP does allow brief moments of respite. “Craving the Silence” opens with wavering strings that quickly plummet into the one Self Titled’s heavier moments, while the instrumental “Midtro” grows weightier as it reaches its conclusion, climaxing in the pummeling “End of Sylvan,” one of the collection’s best tracks. The headbanging induced by “End of Sylvan” is low-hung, like gravity escalating its pull, magnetizing the listener closer to Hell. Secret Cutter may seem like an actual secret for now, with barely a whisper of their metallic prowess, that whisper in time is likely to evolve into a dull roar into a standing ovation. While flawed, their debut LP is busy within its confines, consistently attention-grabbing and merciless. It would be surprising to not see Self-titled on some top ten lists for 2014, if at least on those dedicated to either sludge or grind, styles which the album borrows equally and generously from. We’ll be patiently waiting for what knock-out blows Secret Cutter will come up with next. Self-Titled is available on vinyl at the band’s store and on cassette via Grimoire Cassette Cvlture.