Back To The Past (29):

Our “Back To The Past” column is always the nicest part of our magazine to be working on. Dig into the past, write the article and sometimes we even manage to get in touch with the band, and ask them every question, that has been on our mind for ages. We also get a lot of response every time. Especially because there’s no other magazine in the whole world, that writes so comprehensively about these relatively unknown bands, that have paved the road to success for so many other bands in the present and the future. Most of the time, the bands are obvious choices, and sometimes they are very obscure names. This time we decided to write down the story of a band, that meant a lot for the female rock and metal scene in the Eastern part of Europe. We take you to Romania, and tell you the story of the only all-female outfit we know from this country: SECRET…..

The fact, that SECRET is an all-female metal band, and one of the only bands from Romania with female members in their ranks, makes them really important to us. Reason enough to make you aware, that also countries like Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary have a very rich metal scene. And almost every country has its own female-fronted or all-female metal bands. Because music from these countries is so hard to obtain, the bands are not important enough for the bigger magazines to write about. Not that their music sounds bad, on the contrary, or you must tie yourself to bands like IRON MAIDEN, JUDAS PRIEST or MOTÖRHEAD and only live to these standards, then they may sound like a second rate band to you. However, in most cases, these bands do sound very true and devoted in their music and the scene in these countries is very fanatic, mainly because most bands don’t even think about touring a couple of weeks longer, and come and play in these countries.

The story of SECRET, we would like to tell you here, is dedicated to all these bands that are struggling so hard to get some attention outside their borders, which is very difficult indeed. I am glad, that Metal Maidens has the opportunity to support them, in the best way possible. We don’t have to turn back the clock that long, because the bands started their career in October 1989, which is about fourteen years ago now.

The metal scene in Europe and America is slowly dying, grunge takes over, and from 1990 on, things will only get worse every year. In Romania however, there is a revolution going on. Bands are growing like mushrooms. What happened? Was there a spontaneous combustion of an aggressive metal virus in these countries??!? Did they finally find their way out of the many caves?? No, there was a real revolution going on, and many bands finally found the opportunity to develop themselves. It was not illegal anymore to play in a heavy metal band. Bands didn’t have to play in dark cellars anymore, or in the basement at the house of a close friend. They were now free to come out of their shelter and play live at a club.

For Adriana Angela Buciu, it also got time to start another band of her own. Before that, she played in a band called NOAPTEA, which can be translated as “The Night”. It was time for something new, and that’s why Adriana started to search for some musical friends. She found some people, and formed the band SECRET. The name can be related to the time before the revolution. It was a ‘secret’ to play in a metal or rock band. Everything happened in a circle of friends, and behind closed doors. Thinking back about that time, the name popped up and was used for the new outfit of Adriana. The line-up wasn’t that stable however, and it lasted ‘till 1993 untill we can talk about a more or less stable line-up of this band. But let’s not go too fast here. Three months after the band was founded, which consisted of one person only, Adriana meets Angela Vulpescu, who becomes the bass player in the band. Things go fast then, because five months later Cristina Puia Dan joins them. She plays guitar and violin, and came from a band called KAPPA. Another six months go by, before Mirela Paun joins the band on guitar. In between the band consists of members, that come and go. They play in the band for a couple of weeks or months, and then decide that this is not what they really want. The members, that I mention in this story, are the ones who really stayed in the band for a longer time, the ones who wrote the songs, the music and the band members that will pop up in biographies, etc. After Mirela, it lasts until 1993, when they find their singer Claudia Dumitru, who came from a band, called FORMULA 5.

Let’s go back to 1990. The band exists for a couple of months now, but their success was already quite huge by then. You can’t imagine what a band is able to achieve in such a short time. The fans had obviously waited so long, and now the time had come to be openly supportive to their favorite type of music, nothing could stop them now. Three months after their birth, SECRET played live on TV, performing their song “Soare” (translation: “The Sun”), together with the best rock and metal bands from Romania. Four months later, they toured in…… France. (of all places in the world!) Don’t get me wrong here. There are a lot of great bands coming from France, but when you’re talking about an extensive tour, you wouldn’t think of going to France in the first place. Anyway, they played seven shows there, including the “Chansons Et Rock” festival. A few months later, the drummer leaves the band, and Adriana decides to switch from keyboards to drums. Mirela, as the second guitar player of the band, takes over the keyboard parts. You write it down so easily, but imagine that you are playing keyboards in a band. The drummer leaves the band, and you decide to go and play the drums, from that moment on. It is one of the many proves that we are dealing with musicians here, who are really working on something, they want to succeed. They did everything that was necessary to make this thing successful. And the ladies were so gifted with talent, that they could easily switch over from one instrument to the other. Ask Lars Ullrich to become the bass player in METALLICA, because they need a bass player really bad, and it is much easier for them to recruit a new drummer. Would you think, that Lars would say: “Oh yes, I take the job and we hire a new drummer instead??” I bet all my money (which isn’t a lot, by the way), he will come up with a negative answer. Maybe this isn’t such a good comparison, but it’s still very remarkable to make two switches to pursue the career of your band. This constant struggle made the band stronger and stronger each day, and it seems that they already had a large fan base outside of Romania, too.

In 1990 and 1991, the band constantly tours in Romania. And in 1992, they even tour Italy. They play many concerts there, and some shows were even broadcasted on the local radio. The fans love what they hear and see, and the band has to return for a new tour that same year again. They play live at the Expo ’92 in Genova, where they represent their homecountry. This show was broadcasted live by satellite TV. It’s there where they meet a producer, that works for the Italian television station RAI. He helps the ladies to record their first album in 1992. The ten tracks were recorded in a professional studio in the capitol of Romania, Bucharest. The album, simply called “Secret” contains ten songs. Three of them are covers, the other seven tracks are own penned songs. Needless to say, the lyrics of the self-written songs are dealing about social issues. The fact, bands had to play in the ‘underground scene’ all those years, in the most literal sense of the word (cellars, basements, etc.), the oppression before the revolution and the fact they were not able to speak out loud what’s on their mind, was now vented into the lyrics of the songs on their first album. Doing this, they relived the past, and created something that many fans received with open arms. The first album of five ladies, banging their heads and playing loud metal music. The cover songs on the album, came from bands that had their highlights in the late sixties, early seventies. It might be possible, that bands from the eighties would appear in these countries, many years after their official release. I wouldn’t doubt for a moment, if that was the reason why they didn’t play any cover songs from that period of time. Because they weren’t too obvious choices for a band with such a relatively loud sound. Nonetheless, they covered “Strict Secret” by a band called DECRETFUL 771. The more well-known covers on this album are “In A Gada Da Vida” of IRON BUTTERFLY and “Smoke On The Water” (DEEP PURPLE). And they really did make something special of this last song, starting it in their very own, and special style. It’s nice to add something from yourself to such a classic tune. Many bands think it’s much easier to play a song exactly the same way as the original. But this didn’t apply to a band like SECRET...

However, their big ‘breakthrough’ in Romania happens with the ballad on this album. It’s called “Dor De Lumină”, which stands for “Reach For The Light”. It even entered the Romanian hit charts. Highlights on the album are the fast “La Purtare” and short opener “Ură”. The band line up is the same, I mentioned in the beginning of this story, with the exception of vocalist Claudia Dumitru, who joined the band after they had released this album. On the album we hear the voice of Mariana Turcanu. Okay, their first album was a fact now.

In the meantime, they have found a new singer, and soon SECRET went back on tour again. This time they packed their bags and went straight to Turkey, together with A.G. Weinberger, a blues guitarist. In Turkey, they played together with a local folk music legend, called Baris Manco. People will tend to say, okay, that’s nice for them. It’s good to know that they did some local gigs, and wow, they even played in Turkey. But I think, that a lot of readers underestimate this tour. They filled stadiums of 60,000 people there. Do you now get the idea, why I am mentioning these facts?? Even a band like IRON MAIDEN can’t bring together 60,000 people anymore. In fact, they even have difficulties to fill a hall with 10,000 or 12,000 people these days. We’re talking about five to six times as much here!!!! Ain’t that incredible?? I think, it is.

It’s 1994 by now, and the band plays in Italy again that very year. After that, they play in Lombardy, together with IRIS, another Romanian band. And they play in Germany and Switzerland. They play three gigs in these two countries, together with more all-female bands. The constant touring makes them return to Rome again in 1995. There they play at the Piazza San Giovanni in Rome for 150,000 people. It’s a big show, which was also broadcasted on TV. Next to SECRET, we see names like ZUCCHERO and PAUL YOUNG, but also a band like DEF LEPPARD plays there that same evening. As you can see, the band had their biggest success in Italy, and it’s no real surprise, that the bands second album was recorded in a studio in Rome. They sign a deal with CNI and start recording their second album, which is full of traditional Romanian folk songs, which they rearranged a little. They made them suitable for (loud) guitars, keyboards, drums and bass. A nice initiation! The song “Disco Dance”, which may not be a very suitable title for a metal band, was chosen for a soundtrack for a movie. You’ll see, the evolution goes fast, like every other (metal) band around. You gain success, record an album, tour a lot and then you’ll make a second album. And if you are lucky enough, your star is rising fast, and even the film industry starts to get interested in using your songs.

At the very end of 1996, the bands second album was released. The album is called “Secret”, just like their debut album. Maybe not a wise decision, at least they could have called it “Secret II” or “More Secrets” or something like that. The eight songs (or nine songs, if you’ll count the ‘reprise’ of short opener “7 Vai” (“7 Valleys”) as a full song) have a running time of only half an hour, but the songs sound very exciting. The band surely doesn’t sound like all the average metal or rock bands, and sometimes you even have to be a little bit open-minded to get the idea behind the music of SECRET at this point. I hear influences of LIVING COLOUR sometimes, which is a much other and different approach, than the sound on their debut album. The guitar parts are more riffing than soloing, but it sure is an album to check out if you get the chance for it. After the release of this album, the band starts playing live shows again. They first play in their homecountry of course, where they also do a live concert, which was broadcasted on the local television. In 1997, they tour in……Italy, where else??!! And after that they return to Turkey, where they had already toured successfully. In that same year, they also record some music for an Italian movie called “Hamman-Il Bagno Turco” (“The Turkish Bath”), they record a video clip for “R.B.J.T.”, a track from their second album, and they did another tour in Romania, which ended on New Year’s Eve in Bucharest.

The year 1998 will bring some new opportunities for the band, which mainly include touring in Romania and Italy. It’s also the year when founder member Adriana and vocalist Claudia start a side project. The first cracks in a stable line-up?? No, sometimes it’s good to follow the musical evolution and start something that is totally different from what you are doing with your other band. Otherwise you might find yourself stuck to a certain situation, and things might start to rust. It’s good to free yourself then and start doing something new, which they did in fact. The project didn’t really last very long though, at least not for Adriana and Claudia. So they devoted themselves to SECRET again for the full hundred percent. But the project (read: band) they started, continued their career after the two ladies left the band, and they even managed to represent Romania for the Eurovision Song Contest in 2000. Back in SECRET, the five ladies decided to write a new album, their third release. The recordings have finished and the album seems to be ready, but as far as we know, it was never released. It seems, that the sound of this third album was a bit more deviated from the more heavy sound you may have expected from SECRET. They chose for a more alternative approach, and you can’t blame them for that. After all, they had been playing hard rock and heavy metal for over ten years already, in a time where hard rock and heavy metal were like a ‘filthy word’ in the music scene.

It’s the year 2000, and our trail stops here. We don’t really know, if this third album ever saw the light of day. We have updates about the ladies, but things can change real fast in life. The last things we heard are, that Cristina graduated as a lawyer, Adriana and Angela are chemists (just like me), Mirela is a journalist (just like me, in a certain way) and Claudia is a manager. Is SECRET still active as a band? I swear, that we don’t really know the answer. When you see, what they’ve accomplished so far, I would say “YES”. But like I said already, things can change very fast sometimes. Some of the ladies may have become a mum already, and therefore they may not have the time to play in a band and tour around Europe anymore. It’s not, that we didn’t do our homework properly. We even managed to get in contact with Adriana and Cristina for a short time. The language becomes a barrier and sometimes it’s just difficult for some people to maintain in touch because of that. Perhaps we’ll get back to you one day, and we will tell you a few more secrets about this band from Romania. This story was just meant to show you, there’s a very lively scene in countries like that. Countries, that have their own all-female metal bands, for which it was especially difficult to reach a bigger audience. That’s why, they possibly didn’t reach the status of fellow all-female metal bands like GIRLSCHOOL, ROCK GODDESS, THE RUNAWAYS, KITTIE or THE DONNAS. But they had the same talent, and the same abillity to write good songs, and maybe they have even played for much bigger audiences that some of these bands will ever do in their whole career.

If there are people, who have good quality video footage of the many TV broadcastings of SECRET, please get in contact with us. We’re very anxious to see this of course. And if one of the former members of the band happens to read this story, and they think they can give us more information about SECRET, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. This is just a nice way to introduce the band to our readers. Some of you may have heard of this band before, but to a lot of MM readers, we were glad to unveil one of Romania’s best kept SECRETs so far.

written by: Toine van Poorten/copyright Metal Maidens.
[Our thanx goes out to Cristian Bonciu for the info and music about SECRET - we owe you one!!!]


SECRET (’92 Eurostar; first album only on LP)
SECRET ('96 CNI Music; second album)