Friday, August 26, 2016

SubRosa - For This We Fought the Battle of Ages

By Justin C. I read a blurb about SubRosa's new album, For This We Fought the Battle of Ages, that irked me a little. The writer basically said SubRosa was talented, but boring and repetitive. I wasn't irked because I disagreed, but because it was clear this person hadn't actually listened to the album.
By Justin C.

Artwork by Glyn Smyth @ Stag & Serpent

I read a blurb about SubRosa's new album, For This We Fought the Battle of Ages, that irked me a little. The writer basically said SubRosa was talented, but boring and repetitive. I wasn't irked because I disagreed, but because it was clear this person hadn't actually listened to the album. On the other hand, I myself was initially wary--the album is heavily front-loaded, with the first three songs taking up nearly 45 minutes of its 64-minute run time. I ultimately came to the realization that this album might be a bit difficult to approach for those used to more immediate gratification, so I'm going to be a little schoomarmish and tell you not only why you should listen to this, but also how you should listen to this. There are no two ways about it--you have to sit and focus on this album. This is doom, but it's a particular kind of doom with an intricacy that doesn't yield itself up to scattered attention.

Photo by François Carl Duguay.

A superficial listen to the first track, with its warm bass intro, simple guitar figure, and hauntingly pretty vocals might lull you, but you have to listen further, in a weird sense of that word. Remember that this band has two violists, and they're not just used for texture. They twist around each other, in and out of harmony, sometimes bowed, sometimes plucked, but always important. Check out their diving lines in "Killing Rapture." I admit that I started to flag at this point, but the violins’ part in building the intensity of the song kicked my butt back into the thick of things. There's a bombast here, sometimes as much orchestral as metal, but it's not like a giant timpani drum pounding in your face. It's more of an irresistible undercurrent.

Photo by François Carl Duguay.

Listen to the vocals. Sometimes, it sounds like Rebecca Vernon is going to go for the cliche, like in "Black Majesty" when she sings, "Isn't it good to be / acquainted with darkness." Oh, great, you might think, high school goth poetry. But Vernon twists around by following it up with, "to caress it gently, to slit its throat." That’s not where I expected that to go. The words themselves aren't only interesting, but the delivery is as well. Vernon often pushes her voice to what I call her "proclamation" mode, still clean but pushing toward a harsher sound, but the harmonies with her bandmates are also to die for. When she sings about "The self-assurance of the pure," there's a lovely vocal dance over that last word. (I know you can't see it, but I drew some awesome wiggly lines in my notes to mark this. I'm a true professional.)

Photo by François Carl Duguay.

And I haven't even started in on the guest appearances by flute and sax, and even a lyre on "Il Cappio" (Italian for "The Noose"), or the fact that the album was inspired by a Russian dystopian novel from the 1920s, We by Yevgeny Zamayatin. I haven't read the book, and you don't need to in order to enjoy the album. Lyrics like "Choice is too precious / To be wasted on vermin" gives you a very clear idea of the dystopian vibe. That said, I probably will soon, just so I can peel a few more layers back from this music. It's a fascinating concept that inspired a fascinating album. If you need steering wheel-pounding driving music, this isn't going to be for you, but the best way to find out is to sit with it and pay attention.


Tagged with 2016, doom metal, François Carl Duguay, Justin C, Profound Lore Records, sludge metal, stoner metal, SubRosa

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Spire - Entropy

In chemistry and physics, entropy is a thermodynamics quantity that describes the degree of disorder in an isolated system. This ties into the second law of thermodynamics
By Hera Vidal.


In chemistry and physics, entropy is a thermodynamics quantity that describes the degree of disorder in an isolated system. This ties into the second law of thermodynamics, which states that a system’s disorder will increase over time. In other words, entropy is the gradual decline of order into chaos. For such a deep and honest record, no name could have fitted better.
What are the themes on the album? And where did you take inspiration from?

G.A.: We present a nameless protagonist struggling with the widespread phenomenon of suffering, both personal and more broadly. Each song is a stage in this journey which begins with moral introspection and conceptual meditation, but ultimately (due to perceived purposelessness of existence) leads to a feral descent into insanity.

Our purpose is to show that while logic, reason and morality may well be the ‘best’ intellectual tools that people can use to make sense of, and function in the world – they come at a very high cost. Our inspiration is simply taken from the frustration borne of living in a miserable fucking world where suffering is (and always has been) plentiful, whereas purpose is not. (from The Midlands Rocks)
Right off the bat, Entropy begins with a strong usage of ambience. It’s ominous—the droning hum used in the background is haunting and functions like nightmare fuel. The instruments, mainly the guitar and the drums, only add to it, creating a wall of sound that oppresses you and makes you uncomfortable. There are moments where the music stays constant, before it hammers into you with an incredible intensity and rage that wasn’t there before. It also creates an incredible contrasting effect between the music and the vocals. They take turns in being the highlights in each track, but you eventually come to realize that the instrumentality creates the atmosphere and the vocals are there to create to show how chaotic the organized mind is. There is also a hint of dread that accompanies the album, because you can’t stop events from unfolding and you have to keep listening. It’s unsettling in its essence, but it’s beautiful in its construction.

However, the vocals are possibly the greatest highlight of the entire album. They are both soothing and haunting, launching the listener into their own existential crisis. They are also the most unexpected part of the album, because you don’t know when they are coming and how they are going to sound. It only increases the anticipation of what is going to happen. This becomes evident in “Void”, where vocal ferocity and slow tonalities become the center point of the song. It almost sounds like the speaker is having a breakdown, and the listener can only watch in horror as they continue towards the proverbial void. Eventually, the listener realizes that the proverbial walk to insanity has already happened; he is just listening to how the speaker got there and embraced his inner demons. It’s brilliant—the fact that the album starts with “Ends” and ends with “Entropy” only goes to show how effective it is to see the ouroboric nature of the album at work.

All in all, this album is one of the strongest, enjoyable debuts I’ve heard in 2016. It has all the elements of a good black metal record: it’s dark, unsettling, and chaotic, living up to its name. It’s a deeply honest and personal record—even without understanding the lyrics, the ambience is enough to relate to the pain and the suffering given to us. I have high hopes for Spire’s future—their ferocity is something to appreciate in a subgenre that seems to walk the line between the personal and the exaggerated. Kudos to an excellent release!

Prominent tracks: “Labyrinthine”, “Void”, “Entropy”


Tagged with 2016, ambient, black metal, Hera Vidal, Iron Bonehead Productions, Spire

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

From The Metal Archives Vol 3 - Migration Fest edition.

I had the time of my life at the recent Migration Fest, held in Olympia, Washington. Musically the festival was a stunning success, I mean just check the lineup. It was superbly organized and run. Also Migration Fest simply oozed good atmosphere
By the reviewers from The Metal Archives.

I had the time of my life at the recent Migration Fest, held in Olympia, Washington. Musically the festival was a stunning success, I mean just check the lineup. It was superbly organized and run. Also Migration Fest simply oozed good atmosphere, more than any festival I can remember; three days of friendship and metal.

For a good full roundup of Migration Fest check out this three-parter by our friends at No, Clean, Singing. What you have here is simply Metal Archives reviews on two of my takeaways from the fest: Dead to a Dying World, who I reconnected with, and Yautja, who I had not heard before. Both played fantastic sets; go check them out live if you get the chance.


Artwork by Sera Timms

Considering "atmospheric" has been essentially reduced to another genre tag, it doesn't capture what Dead to a Dying World have achieved here. Litany feels carefully crafted in a way extreme metal rarely does, and perfect balance every song strikes between doom and classical elements captures the mournful spirit that bands that label themselves "atmospheric" wish they could emulate. Dead to a Dying World call their music "apocalyptic," and the musical nihilism that implies perhaps comes closest to conveying the terrible beauty of Litany's six movements. (read ThuribleOfDarkness's full review here).



Artwork by Caleb Gregory

Sure, there's grind here but there's a lot of other stuff like mathcore, death metal, experimental and a big dose of sludge. It's almost like a southern appropriation of the US East Coast's hipsterism. In some ways, they're Tennessee's chaotic answer to Krallice or to early Mastodon, they have those odd rhythms while keeping the heaviness as an integral part of their identity. While there's an interesting variety of tempos, all of supreme quality, you never get lost with Yautja. They're taking you places that you wasn't quite sure were real. From the grind might of "Blinders" to the weird epic sludge of "Faith Resigned" (a song that sounds like Crowbar who suddenly became a forward thinking band), it's as a varied as you'll get for a grindcore band. (read Metantoine's full review here).


Tagged with 2014, 2015, blackened sludge metal, crust, Dead to a Dying World, doom metal, Forcefield Records, grindcore, sludge metal, Yautja