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Subversion - Transcend[23rd December 2013]

01. Butchered (Redux)
02. What We Are Entitled (Redux)
03. Relevation
04. Novation

Subversion have been a presence on the UK Tech Metal scene for a number of years now. With appearances at a number of Tech Fest events and Euroblast under their belt, the Kent five-piece carry with them a certain degree of name recognition. However, as is so often the case, Subversion have had a bit of a bumpy ride, which most clearly manifests itself in the line-up changes and lengthy interim between their 2010 album Lest We Forget and this latest EP, Transcend.

With the band currently writing a new album, Transcend is fundamentally a stop-gap. It is an opportunity to consolidate and show off their new members, in particular the fearsome roar of new vocalist Karl Harrigan. Three of the four tracks on offer here have already seen the light of day in some form or other, with two ‘Redux’ versions of tracks from Lest We Forget and “Novation“, which the band released as a single at the start of 2013, prior to the change of vocalist.

In tacit acknowledgement of the fact there is little truly new material on offer here, the band have released the EP on a pay-what-you-like basis on Bandcamp (you can find it here).

The Lest We Forget Reduxes present something of a conundrum. It is undeniable that the production has taken a quantum leap forward, so the tracks no longer sound like they were recorded in a biscuit tin. However, the marked improvements in the quality of the recording also highlights, somewhat unfortunately, that these songs may not have been worth polishing up in the first place. Three years is a long time for a young band, so quite why they chose to re-record aged material is a bit of a head-scratcher.

Nevertheless, they do showcase Karl’s vocals, and prove without question that his contributions up Subversion’s aggression by a significant order of magnitude.

Sadly, the band fall into a number of traps that beset many aspiring tech bands. By crowbarring-in numerous snatched beats or quirky fills, the groove of too many riffs are sacrificed and momentum squandered, with the worst offender being a spectacularly over-fussy breakdown in “Novation”.

The relative ease of home production results in layer after layer being added, with the results being muddy and confused. There’s also something of an over-infatuation with the sub bass hit, with “Butchered” featuring ten of them on its own. This ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach is frustrating, because it is clear that when sections are given some breathing room they are quite satisfying, as a synth-led passage in “Revelation” proves. But these moments are all too rare.

Transcend, therefore, is a disappointment. In Subversion, there is clearly a good band fighting to be heard, but one that is being hamstrung by some questionable quality control and a tendency to over-egg the pudding. One less awkward stop-start pitch bend here, one less layer of synths there and these songs may have showcased their abilities more effectively. As the band continue to write album number two, it is clear they have some work to do to fully unlock their potential. With the best song of the four, “Revelation“, also being the newest, there are signs the band are moving in the right direction.