Review Summary: Glass.
On For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
, Salt Lake City group SubRosa envision Greek tragedy with chamber instrumentation, revitalized Gothic elements, ambience, introspection, and, in lengthier portions, neoclassical qualities. This would be impressive in itself if Black Tape for a Blue Girl hadn’t already done this thirty years ago (give or take), but what SubRosa do uniquely is rebrand this style in heavy, anthemic channels of doom, thanks primarily to guitarist Rebecca Vernon. At times she delivers warring riffs at ground zero, and elsewhere her guitar resembles a lightning rod channeling the storm’s impact. Her vocals take on a unique quality of being dependent on the audience: meaning, there’s a recurring sense of disappointment in the singer’s tone weighed by the listener’s actions. It’s a subtle, easily-missed trait, but it’s there. The lyrical themes are more expansive and conceptual. Single “Wound of the Warden”, for example, coveys an authority figure who denies any semblance of free choice, “choice is too precious / to be wasted on vermin.
” The whole album seems to reiterate a feeling of majestic disdain.
Perhaps For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
reiterates a bit too much. Much of the album’s greater nuances are masked by the unrelenting, sludgy instrumentation. Eventually, you get acclimatized to the otherwise breathtaking atmosphere, and wish it would just dissipate - which is problematic of many hour-long-plus doom outings. Kim Pack and Sarah Pendleton’s electric violins feel a bit under-utilized compared to SubRosa’s last effort, More Constant Than the Gods
, and seem more supplementary. Despite decent variety, the album requires regular un-peeling to get at the heart. One could miss how lyre-plucked “Il Cappio”, despite being a tiresome dirge, acts as a prelude to the tumbling “Killing Rapture”. On a greater scale, the album could be associated conceptually with the Zamayatin dystopian novel, We
, but those not privy to the band’s inspirational material would never guess this. Still, For This…
successfully captures the essence of a narrative, and the songs seem to melt into each other, propelled by the same force. The problem is that this unseen ‘force’ is too tangible. For This We Fought the Battle of Ages
doesn’t feel like it surpasses space and time, or bridges a gap between consciousness and dreams. Once it’s over, it’s forgotten fairly easily, save maybe a couple of Vernon’s stronger melodies. It digs its nails into your scalp, but doesn’t truly grab at the psyche.