Skip to main content

Words by Sam Wolstenholme

Since the 2020s drew its first shy, hopeful breath, it wouldn’t be overly cynical to say that the future has become a bleak and uncertain thing for humanity to contemplate; like a black hole pulling us further and further in with every barely conceivable new challenge we’ve had to contend with. We’ve slowly come to accept that we can’t simply wave a magic wand or gaze into a crystal ball to discover what lies ahead. Instead, we must face all that seems insurmountable and dive right into the darkness to divulge the true secret that lies there, which is the truth of who and what we are in a time when we’ve never been so self-aware yet felt so insignificant. 

‘Secrets of the Future’, Sydney’s experimental metal powerhouse Reliqa’s mammoth new album, is imbued with this dark quality, and it conceals as much as it reveals. As an avid fan of this band since their earliest days, I have closely followed their progress as they have expanded their level of innovation on each release and grown into their sound. But ‘Secrets of the Future’ isn’t just a step up from Reliqa’s previous works. It’s a magnum opus of staggering complexity, ingenuity and emotional intensity that accurately reflects the calibre of a band that has not only signed with Nuclear Blast Records and shared the stage with the likes of Spiritbox and BABYMETAL, but has found the precise formula through which to showcase the full extent of each member’s technical virtuosity.

Dying Light opens with a deceptively nonchalant spoken word verse over dull synths as frontwoman Monique Pym bids us to “step into the centre of the dying light…can you make their eyes roll back”, and then a swaggering guitar groove crashes in like an anvil from on high. We’ve fastened our seatbelts, but somehow I don’t think we’re ready for the ride that’s in store. This track is quintessential Reliqa, blending everything from anthemic choruses, lightning proggy lead guitar shreds, nu-metal rap verses and jazz-infused drum fills in an ambitiously genre-bending three minutes. But it’s when Cave hits that the edge of darkness simmering beneath the surface of this album begins to unmask and carefully, oh-so-deliberately reveal its depths. The band have said that this is one of the tracks in which the shift in their songwriting is apparent, and sure enough, Cave showcases a new maturity in the band’s core sound as it meticulously builds the tension from a lone, plaintive synth line through to the climactic djent-tinged, downtuned breakdown two minutes in. This track gives me chills – think TesseracT meets Deftones.

Killstar (The Cold World) is a progressive metal mini-masterpiece in itself, its sci-fi vibes coming in thick and fast with rapid-fire 8-bit synths darting around like lights in a pinball machine, mirrored by the mind-blowing guitar shreds of Brandon Lloyd. Nu-mathcore passages abruptly dissolve into pulsating chugs which then concede to epic metalcore maelstroms driven by thunderous double kicks courtesy of Benjamin Knox, not to mention Pym’s vocal versatility in this track as she powers from rapping to a grand rock belt and back again. Yet all these elements coalesced together are somehow not overwhelming or overbearing, such is the skill of the songwriting. 

At first, The Flower conveys Sevendust flavours with a foreboding tinge of tragedy, its lush rock choruses contrasting with blistering raps. Yet out of nowhere, in a genuinely shocking move, the band pulls the rug out from under us with a dark spoken verse that gives way to a filthy deathcore breakdown, proving again that we really should expect the unexpected in this album. The melancholy Sariah allows Pym to take centre stage with her shimmering, velvety alto, delivering a message of empowerment – “Light shines when I can’t see / A reminder of who I am” – and culminates in a virtuosic guitar solo from Lloyd followed by a truly stunning final chorus bolstered with layers of glorious harmonies in a burst of blinding light.

Terminal is cyberpop metalcore on steroids while still retaining Reliqa’s unique alt-prog style – the band clearly took notes from their tour with BABYMETAL last year, and this electrifying J-pop infused track comes as a real suckerpunch at this midpoint of the album. The build-up of the repeated chant, “Rage, rage, rage, against the way that I hate myself and what I’ve created”, to the final chorus where layers of Pym’s harmonised belts duel for dominance with manic synths, gets my heart racing – someone add this track to the standard DDR playlist stat. The sinister, pulsating Keep Yourself Awake could be described as what System of a Down might sound like if they had luxurious female vocals, spurts of djent-deathcore chugs and an almost bloodlessly dystopian outlook. We get a chance to calm that heart rate down (at least initially) in Crossfire, which features a heart-wrenchingly passionate vocal performance from Pym in the choruses in particular, and this, in turn, is emboldened by stately riffs and yet another phenomenal guitar solo from Lloyd.

Physical opens with the band’s most TesseracT-esque proggy guitar lick yet and quickly goes haywire, venturing into mathcore territory at numerous points, and bassist Miles Knox really gets to flex his considerable chops in this track. The repeated chant “Fuck what you made me and what you made me do” feels pertinent at this point in the album as our descent into darkness enters its final stages. The anthemic Two Steps Apart is a powerful belter with pop-rock flavours amidst its pummeling metal soundscape, and thematically it strikes a reflective and somewhat rueful tone. 

A Spark is a masterstroke of the slow burn; trance/house synths meets RnB driven by Pym’s eloquent, crisp rapping, and layer after layer is added until full instrumentation boosts the gravitas of the crowning chorus: “Stars crossing me for a moment / Fleeting points of symmetry”. This track articulates so well the feeling of vulnerability when we meet that special person whom we are drawn to and they really get under our skin. Finally, this opulent odyssey arrives at its conclusion with the aptly titled Upside Down, a hard-hitting and relatable anthem for those whose lives have irrevocably changed and they have no choice but to change also.

In ‘Secrets of the Future’, Reliqa have crafted a rich and intricate labyrinth with twists and turns that keep the listener constantly on their toes, immersing them completely every step of the way. Innovation may be the name and game of progressive metal, but this album ventures so far as to innovate the genre itself. This is a band that has stepped into their power with this release. Without a doubt, ‘Secrets of the Future’ is a contender for album of the year for me.



Thanks to Dallas Does PR

Leave a Reply

Optimized by Optimole