Valby Hallen, Copenhagen, DEN - 26/4
For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages
Written by: AP on 08/10/2016 20:15:57
Since announcing itself to the world with the “Strega” LP in 2008, SubRosa has been making the lives of obsessive categorisers nightmarish. Often classed as a doom metal act, in truth the Salt Lake City, Utah-based outfit’s music is something more elusive, and as with every artist that dares challenge the status quo, its avantgarde leanings have urged forth a selection of fashionable labels such as ‘doomgaze’ and ‘stonegaze’. Neither of those terms offers any useful insight though, toward explaining the multifarious ideas that populate the band’s fourth studio album, “For This We Fought the Battle of Ages”. Inspired by “We”, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel about a modern surveillance state published in 1921 and regarded as the precursor to George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984”, the record is enormous in every sense of the word — in ambition, scope, sound and length — weaving together darkened folk, crushing doom and transcendental post-rock to create something that really just deserves to be called beautiful music.
By pitting featherweight against heavyweight, the album derives the brunt of its allure from contrasts made possible by virtue of SubRosa’s two violinists, Sarah Pendleton & Kim Pack. But rather than simply juxtaposing light and dark, songs such as “Wound of the Warden” further expose a fascination with the paradoxical relationship between harmony and dissonance. Just as frontlady Rebecca Vernon’s shape shifting application of the guitar can take on an airy and distant character (“Despair is a Siren”), rain down lumbering slabs of doom or soar toward the sky, so, too, does the string section alter its urgency and tone according to the prevalent mood. It is in crescendos where the violins wail in funereal tragedy or morph into frenzied, apocalyptic screeches over waves of crashing chords, atavistically pounding drums and bassist Levi Hanna’s growling (“Wound of the Warden” & “Black Majesty”), that the drama of SubRosa’s music is truly felt — especially when apposed with a quietus of Pack’s angelic backing vocals and soothing clean guitar immediately before or after.
If the above description should have a familiar ring to existing fans of SubRosa, it is because this latest outing refines rather than reinvents the groundwork laid by what many suspected would become the group’s defining opus, 2013’s “More Constant Than the Gods”. The towering compositions, monolithic rise-and-fall instrumentation and hushed, True Widow-esque meditation — hell, even the sleeve design! — are preserved, but with the upscaling of the underlying ambition, the band’s recondite aesthetic has never been more compelling. Just as “We” boldly envisions a world made of glass in which secrets are impossible and pleasurable sex is curtailed by state policy, “For This We Fought the Battles of Ages” has the audacity to reimagine how the world should look — or sound. Personally, I would have liked the standalone single “Key of the Eidolon”, which was released as part of Decibel Magazine’s ‘Flexi Series’ this past summer, to replace the cloistered opening track (the lone example here of only impressing in its heaviest and most cinematic excerpts), but this is merely a luxury complaint about one of this year’s most original albums.
Download: Wound of the Warden, Black Majesty, Killing Rapture
For the fans of: 40 Watt Sun, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Ides of Gemini
Release date 24.08.2016