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2016-09-30

SUBROSA - For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages

Time for superlatives!

Or let's say: time for the Subrosative!

All right, that was lame. Sorry, I'll just get on with it.
 



SUBROSA - For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages (clear vinyl) (2016)

After having seen them live at Roadburn 2015, getting to know their previous albums "No Help For The Mighty Ones" and "More Constant Than The Gods" and lastly the Decibel tease "Key Of The Eidolon" my expectation for the new double LP of Subrosa was none other than simply the doom metal masterpiece of the year.

And while I'll be fair to the rest of the music world in granting it its three remaining months to beat this, I clearly doubt that it is possible, even with strong contestants like the new Khemmis record still to come.
"For This We Fought The Battle of Ages" just succeeds so brilliantly in so many respects.

But in case you're totally unfamiliar with Subrosa:
The band was founded with the classic motivation of being the heaviest shit in town (Salt Lake City) by guitar player / singer Rebecca Vernon and Sarah Pendleton, who happened to learn... the violin. Ok, that's a bit unusual.

A few years and some line-up changes later Subrosa reached its current form, a five-member force of doom - now with even two violins - that dips into super heavy sludge as well as gothic, folk and classical music. And whatever you're imagining now after this brief description - it's probably not nearly as rich, moving and crushing as the real thing.


"For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages" is no testimony to some radical change in style, but a very comprehensible evolution from the last album. It picks up the thread very close to the epic "More Constant Than The Gods" opener "The Usher".
So four of the album's six tracks go over the ten minute mark, two of those even over fifteen minutes. These songs are seldom structured in verse-chorus schemata, but rather in dramatic movements in a very wide dynamic range.

Apart from the short italian interlude "Il Cappio" from Sarah Pendleton Subrosa are always seriously heavy. Which doesn't mean the album is a full-on riff brutalization like the last Conan. No, there are indeed many solemn passages and build-ups. But emotionally this album is heavy through and through.

The lyrics are well-crafted, deep poetry, profoundly sad and bitter, with many evocative lines sticking to the listeners mind. The execution is diversified, ranging from fragile harmonies over Rebecca Vernon's unmistakable harsh lead vocal delivery to peaks backed by many-voiced screams and the rare growls of bass player (and only male singer) Levi Hanna.

Subrosa live 2015
Instrumentally the soul of Subrosa are the two violins of Pendleton and Kim Pack, carrying even more of the dramatic weight than the vocals. In the calm passages they are close to the chamber music tone you presumably would expect, but there is always a sense of unease as they are whirring around each other. And while they are also capable of beautiful harmonical bombast, especially when the riffs rise to and above the heaviness of Neurosis and the like this whirring often culminates in a ferocious storm of brutal noise.

"For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages" is an epic beast of overwhelming doom. It subdues you with sorrow and anger. It's always beautiful, but never sweet. It urges you, engulfs you and during its final eight minutes with the song "Troubled Cells" just breaks your heart.
 
I can't think of many recent albums which are comparable to this one in its scale and sincere intensity.  Cult Of Luna and Julie Christmas come to mind, yet they don't get as close to the threatened core of the human condition.
The only album clearly beating Subrosa in these aspects might be the Swans' monumental "The Glowing Man". But even that isn't fully written in stone for me yet.

So my high expectations were met and exceeded:
This is a masterpiece FOR this we fought THE battle of AGES.


I can't wait to see the band live again in only a few days in Hamburg, supported by Sinistro!



Visually Subrosa have kept the cream-coloured front cover as their trademark. I must admit I didn't like it that much on first sight, but in connection with the whole design - and especially the gatefold art - it really won me over. The transparent vinyl records don't look that bad either:

 


Soundwise the black vinyl version will probably be the first choice, but we all know that when we buy these special editions, right?

The double LP comes with a lyric sheet and a download card.



Highlights: Troubled Cells, Black Majesty, Despair Is A Siren









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