SubRosa (US)



by Malen USER (42 Reviews)
September 27th, 2023 | 1 replies

Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Witchy, mysterious and hard-hitting

Sludge metal is a strange genre. Its very premise sounds insane, as it's a mix of doom metal and hardcore punk, so basically, it tries to blend metal's slowest sub-genre with punk's fastest. It can result in a variety of sounds and styles, one of the most interesting being SubRosa's debut "Strega". This one is different from the complex doom metal of their following albums, being instead the kind of album where they were trying to find their sound. So it sounds like an improbable, unpredictable mix of doom metal, punk and grunge, in the best of ways.

Imagine this as a grunge/punk band like L7 fooling around in Black Sabbath's studio. Or rock songs with lots of distortion and echoes on the guitars. Or a faster version of Drain STH. Now imagine all of this with weird, dark songs about society and humanity's ills, death and dark magic. For example, the title track means "witch", and its lyrics are a sort of incantation to the stars and cardinal points. From the beginning, with its heavy riff and "Wow-oh-oh-oh-oh", you're immediately hooked. It's an unusual song that actually sounds magical. But it's surrounded by political songs, like "Christine", a fast, sort of punk but with more distortion track about a rape victim being shunned. Or "How to Neglect Your Heart", a not quite heavy metal, not quite doom-y song about being constantly judged and shamed.

Then you have more ambitious, longer and heavier songs with more imaginative but still political lyrics, such as "Crucible", about the "trash of the Earth" being exploited and sent to war because "they won't be missed", while the chorus is chanting, almost rapping as it's telling you to "Step inside my crucible!". Or "Self-Rule", a heavy and sinister song about someone who "can't rule themselves". "Isaac" is an a capella ballad, with somewhat similar themes to the previous two, about a mother seeing her son leaving for war, and understanding the need to fight against the oppressors but feeling so weary that she concludes with this chilling line "If death itself should knock upon my door, I'd turn it away saying I ain't got no more to give". Even the amazingly eerie cover of "Go Down Moses", with its echoing vocals, feels linked to these themes.

But the best mysterious song would have to be "Black Joan", a song that has honestly become one of my favorites ever. It's the fastest, heaviest track with catchy verses that immediately gets stuck in your head. Then the lyrics stick in your mind too. It's not clear who or what Black Joan is, but it seems to be a strange, magical being that the narrator can't help but want to join, for a mysterious new existence. It could be compared to all sorts of folkloric characters. It's the least typical of SubRosa's style, but it's absolutely one of their best songs. Every little detail of it is nearly perfect.

The rest of the album isn't that close to perfection, but it's still a pretty good example of the unique style that SubRosa had on their first album: heaviness, distortion, dark vocals, strange and haunting imagery. This album, while different from the incredible doom/sludge album they would make later, already establishes SubRosa's unique mixture of rock and doom metal, their musical and vocal talents, and above all, their ability to create eerie, somewhat folky stories that will haunt your mind for a long time. This is a fascinating album, both to listen to and to review. And it's a fascinating band, that I got into pretty recently, but I'm glad I found them. Now I have to recommend them to you. I'd recommend their next albums like "No Help for the Mighty Ones" or "More Constant than the Gods", but also this one. While not every song is as great as the others, the good ones will never stop amazing me, but most of all, it's such a unique album in their discography, such an unique and amazing experience that you definitely need to hear it, and fall under SubRosa's spell.

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Staff Reviewer
September 28th 2023


Great review, pos.

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