For This We Fought The Battle of Ages
26th August 2016 – Profound Lore Records
01. Despair Is A Siren
02. Wound Of The Warden
03. Black Majesty
04. Il Cappio
05. Killing Rapture
06. Troubled Cells
Sludge is a pretty good breeding ground for miscreants and experimentalists. The variable pacing and song length lends scope to bring unusual things to the table; everything from violent power electronics to dulcimers. Of the modern crop a number of stalwarts emerge – first amongst them being the unearthly SubRosa, whose violin-drenched vibe has already turned a number of heads.
On their triumphant return, For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages, they focus their craft whilst leaving room to meander a little. On a basic level this record fills a void for sludge with a greater emotional edge, which still crushes, snaps and hisses in its fuzzed-out glory. However, this is an album of build-up and wisely-timed release. The greatest moments of SubRosa’s unique brand are in the tension, where the violins swoop and trill; previously they stabbed, and though there are elements of that here the violin is more present as a texture than as a lead instrument which suits a more consistently mournful tone.
Though SubRosa still wear their experimental colours, For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages is more together and contained than previous releases. Opening track “Despair Is A Siren“ jumps to staccato violin before the expected doom crescendo early on; perhaps a little less obviously intense than previously but the band are very much trying new ways to incorporate unusual instrumentation into the mix. There are more twinkly sections dotted around the album too, and though there are curveballs – the delicate “Il Cappio” springs to mind – the album is more than happy to gracefully slip through different moods and textures. Worth noting, however, is that this is a far cry from acts like Ghold or the Melvins, whose forays into Weird Shit are much less jarring and abrasive.
The songs are frequently far and above the ten-minute mark, but album closer “Troubled Cells” is shorter and the most consistently sorrowful. The longer songs snake their way through sections but remain coherent; here the extended track lengths give the band more scope to drift into more mellow material. An effective example is “Black Majesty“, featuring a startling vocal assault following a calmer intro. Vocalist Rebecca Vernon herself is stunning as ever and finds a multitude of new ways to express herself; for her especially (but also for the band generally) this is her best-realised work.
As if it needed more, another strength of For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages is its engagement with folk music. Quite often when metal does this it’s either pretty mawkish or a clear reference to bands like Jethro Tull. Here, SubRosa evoke more of a Nick Cave vibe; less melodramatic than material like Murder Ballads perhaps, but they both draw on the pastoral and work to darken it. Again, the subtler moments and the build-ups are where this record really shine and this engagement accentuates this. It also give them a gothic edge without drawing any really obvious parallels. Even a casual listen will unearth risks like these which have paid off spectacularly.
Everyone expected this album to be good; their sad violin vibe is a great foundation an their previous work is stellar. In their most tender moments the band shine; at their best they compare favourably to heavyweights such as Pallbearer and Yob, and their taste and conviction even threatens to edge them out. These moments elevate For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages from well-conceived to one of the most personable and unpredictable albums of the recent crop. SubRosa thoroughly deserve their reputation as stalwarts. Can we have a UK tour with Mamiffer please?