Subrosa // No Help for the Mighty Ones
Rating: 2.0/5.0 —No Help for My Attention Span
Label: Profound Lore
Websites: subrosaonline.com | myspace.com/subrosatheatre
Release Dates: EU: 2011.03.04 | US: 03.01.2011
I consider myself a pretty open-minded guy. Sure, I’m angry and a tad dogmatic at times, but I’m certainly not unwilling to engage in new ideas or to follow along with people when they do innovative things. But one trend, or musical movement if I’m going to be polite about it, in the metal underground that I just have never been able to get on board with is sludge or funeral doom. As I’ve said before, I just get bored. My attention span isn’t up for this stuff. There is a mind-numbing simplicity that I think you can only appreciate if you’re really stoned and I, frankly, don’t touch the stuff.
So I guess that it was inevitable that I wouldn’t really dig what Subrosa is up to, because at their base I think this band is pretty much sludge with a Rasputina influence. The production is muddy, the instruments fat and distorted and the use of layers upon layers to evoke walls of sound are deeply embedded in who the band seems to be. And let’s not hold this against them, because what they’re doing is stark and cool at times. In the right kind of ambiance and mood, I can see this kind of music being highly effective.
The record lumbers out the gate with those fat, distorted tones on opening track “Borrowed Time, Borrowed Eyes” but also haunting melodies that really are ubiquitous throughout the record. Subrosa uses strings and noise to build up an uneasy feeling that carries over to the following track, which I also thought was pretty enjoyable, “Beneath the Crown.” But it was after this that things started to go south, actually. See, the next track is a 12 minute (11:45 actually) dirge called “Stonecarver” and my attention span went AWOL. It didn’t help that I think someone was talking in The Black Tongue over it (Russian, actually, I think). It frankly felt a bit melodramatic and, well.. Ash Nash Kinjahtoo!
Once that unsettling sense of boredom set in, it.. well, never left. Despite the for the most part excellent vocal performances, which go between three-piece harmonized acapella parts (“House Carpenter” which seems to be an old folk songs, though some of the harmonies sounded a tad off at times) and cold, angsty black metal screams, from the three ladies in the band and the unique sound, I just had a hell of a hard time getting into this for any longer period of time. At times it was the writing that bored me senseless. At times it was the it was the vocal harmonies and, more specifically, the imperfect performances and clashing harmonies where it sounds it like someone is going flat that really bugged me and made my skin crawl (see “Attack on Golden Mountain” and certain parts of “House Carpenter” for the most extreme examples).
However, there are some positive things going on here, like I said. The strings and the production are really pretty cool. I like the fat dirty sound, and I like that things feel raw and organic. This is a movement that’s happening in metal right now with bands like Grayceon and Shroud of Despondency that I think is really worthwhile. While all the major labels are overproducing the shit out of their bands, the forward thinking underground is sick of it and Subrosa is definitely in on that. This isn’t lo-fi by any means, however, as the production is quite good. It’s just that things aren’t perfect or faked.
I do encourage you, if you’re a fan of sludge and doom, to check this band out. I think a lot of people will dig what they do even if I don’t. Subrosa is another one of those more unique voices in American metal that show off the variety of the scene and that makes me happy. Unfortunately, No Help for the Mighty Ones is something that I won’t be coming back to this year or probably ever. Where the flaws aren’t, the boredom strikes me. I guess there just aren’t enough places where they could do synchronized guitar swinging or back-to-back solos on stage.