Thursday, September 1, 2016

Album Review: For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages by SubRosa

SubRosa are a rarity these days, a band that sounds like no other.   Their previous album, More Constant Than the Gods is one of my all time favorites, so it's a tough act to follow.  I've been listening to the record exclusively for almost a week, but I’m still absorbing everything that's going on.  It's a dense work that takes many twists and turns.

The first three songs on this record all reach approximately fifteen minutes in length, so the word "epic" is likely to get thrown around.  I can say for sure that the opener "Despair is a Siren" earns the title.  Eerie violins fade in, joined by bass and guitar, and finally a plaintive vocal. All that build pays off when the first big riff arrives.  Hovering over the riff are some creepy plucked strings that somehow make me think of The Residents; always a good thing!  The song builds to a crescendo before settling down again with another verse. Quiet harmonies followed by ethereal strings. The building section returns, leading up to the lyric "I see the bars of the cage," and I get chills.  With the exception of the final track, this is a concept album inspired by Yevgeny Zamatin's 1921 science fiction novel "We". I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the lyrics, but this review will stick with the music.  After another verse or two we're treated to a proggy instrumental, after which things quiet down and we're seen out by aching strings floating and singing like seagulls over some doomy riffage. I don't see anything about woodwinds in the credits, but this won't be the last time I think I hear them.

"Wound of the Warden" grooves and glides and makes your head want to nod.  The bass at the beginning made me think of Tool, which I hadn't quite expected.  There are some breathtaking harmonies, and an intense buildup is followed by a groovy, heavy slowdown around the nine-minute mark, morphing into a colossal riff.
"Black Majesty" begins with a haunting a Capella, before the giant riff reminds me how SubRosa's production is never overbearing.  Most doom bands want to submerge you under the weight of their riffs, but SubRosa are more understated, always sounding like a living, breathing (live) band.
With its lovely melody providing a brief reprieve from the intensity, "Il Cappio" is a European folk song reminiscent of the early Renaissance.
Opening with a mellow, groovy section, "Killing Rapture" is a classic long build that climaxes around the seven-and-a-half minute mark, returning to origin for a period of refraction. Rapture indeed.  I know it was good for me!

Album closer "Troubled Souls" was written in response to the Mormon church's recent ruling regarding children of LGBTQI parents (read more here).  The guitar arpeggios remind me of early King Crimson, and the woodwinds seal the deal. The resplendent vocal melody that follows is at once uplifting and forlorn, something with which SubRosa are quite proficient.  The song reminds me of a beautiful flower that's started to wilt, and closes with a mournful dirge.
I'm really looking forward to many more listens to this record.  So far I haven't perceived any song being as great as my personal SubRosa favorite, but favorites are subjective and as these songs continue to eat their way into my brain that could change.  


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