I became a fan of SubRosa several years ago when they released their second full-length album No Help for the Mighty Ones. I got hooked on their rhythmic style of doom. They blended awesome violin arrangements with haunting vocal melodies into their experimental sludge, which makes for a killer recipe for some great metal. With their latest album, For This We Fought the Battle of Ages, SubRosa have managed to take that recipe, perfect it, and make one of the best metal records of the year.
The album is populated with only six tracks, but each and every one of the songs is an aural journey– transporting the listener to an uninhabited part of the mind where you can just let yourself be absorbed by the sonic waves: It reminded me a lot of Tool. The album kicks off with a 15 minute, bass heavy swirling epic titled “Despair is a Siren.” The track showcases the evolution of the band’s sound– demonstrating great patience within their songwriting structures. The doom metal doesn’t truly kick in until halfway through the song. The doom expertly trails off as the violins bleed into the mix. The following track, “Wound of the Warden,” again starts you off with light guitar work and a dominant bass layer. The violins start just as the fuzzy chords begin to take shape. The violins take hold of the ambiance the entire length of the song, displaying the great chemistry the instruments have with each other.
The third song on the album, and my personal favorite, “Black Majesty,” immediately captivates you with a Gaelic sounding hymn that leads to some violin-laced doom. Like all the music on this album, it takes you on a brutal roller coaster of emotions. This one is another 15 minute-plus track that is expertly able to use every second to hypnotize the listener and teleport them to a beautifully bleak space where you have no option but to assimilate with the music. The fourth track on the album is an interlude titled “Il Cappio,” which is an Italian word for noose. The minute long track lets us decompress a little before the third act of the record begins. The follow up track, “Killing Rapture,” is quintessential SubRosa– pure doom-laden tones with some superb string work. Drummer Andy Patterson and bassist Levi Hanna make the rhythm section shine in the second half of the track. The final track on the album “Troubled Cells,” also oozes SubRosa out of every pore. The dual vocal work by guitarist Rebecca Vernon and violinist Sarah Pendleton is masterful.
For This We Fought the War of Ages is one of the best releases of the year. It’s a true slow-burn of an album with a huge payoff. The musicians have all brought their best to the table and it definitely shows. The quality of every song, along with some great production value, really make the listening experience quite phenomenal. SubRosa have outdone their previous efforts and mastered their unique take on doom metal. If you’re a fan of Tool, These Arms Are Snakes, Agalloch or just doom in general, then you’ll love and appreciate this new record. //Arturo Padilla