Have you ever been rocking out and singing along to the sick riffs and genius vocal melodies of Periphery and thought, “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if there was another band just like this, but less self-indulgent and with a singer whose voice is marginally less annoying?” If your answer is “No, because my rectum is not literally Tartarus,” then you’re in good company. However, for those suffering such an affliction, relief is on the way. Subversion are a technical/melodic (bonus points if you know what that’s a euphemism for) metal band from London who come highly recommended by way of our very own El Cuervo, who I have been informed has just doffed his sombrero in preparation for an unpleasantly fibrous meal. Animi is their sophomore album and represents a shift in style from their somewhat lo-fi debut to a sound heavily influenced by Periphery, Monuments, and self-lubricating catheters.
Even clouds of methyl bromide have a silver lining, or at least a protective tent around them, so we’ll start there; Subversion are, as indicated, very melodic. “Animi” and “Revelation,” among others, feature strong melodies that improve on their riffing – a feature which will be covered later. There’s also a lot of airy, echoing guitar lines reminiscent of Outrun the Sunlight which add a bit of ambiance when needed. These are undoubtedly the best aspect of Animi, but fall short of redeeming the album due to the sheer volume of things needing to be redeemed.
As the true sophisticates in the audience will have inferred, this album’s place on the grand tree of metal is a twig deeply nested within the controversial clade of “djent.” All of the standard plesiomorphies of the djenre are present and accounted for; the rhythm guitar work requires one string and a fixation on counting random numbers of 16th rests, the ride cymbal gets beaten like a redheaded stepchild every half second, bathetic vocal lines are set down next to cross-eyed breakdowns and told to make friends, and every sound has spent an eternity and a half being whittled down to perfection in Pro Tools. On top of this, the vocalist shares in the guitarists’ bizarre Periphery fetish and his performance is saved only by his inability to actually be Spencer Sotelo. In “Pariah,” one of the album’s high points only due to its lack of guitar playing, he belts out something dramatic against some ambient swishing sounds and you’d swear he thought he was on an R&B album. While the vocals are admittedly diverse, they’re not by any means pleasant, no matter what register they get tossed around in.
The Sotelo-esque singing and throwaway Monuments riffs (“Catalyst” could have been snuck into The Amanuensis and you’d never be able to tell) might not be as annoying if they had some actual weight to back them up, but alas, the band chose to record their album in a tank of bleach and subsequently handed the production over to a muscular bald man in a white t-shirt. Calling Animi‘s production clean is semantically equivalent to labeling its album artwork as uninventive; if this album were positively pressurized and equipped with enough robots you could manufacture microchips in it. Every djent is chopped down to the exact length needed with millisecond precision, the bass drum clips along with it with equal sterility, and annoying electronic effects show up everywhere, jumping out from the corners wearing purple gloves and intent on pissing you off to the highest degree possible.
For all of the cultured and erudite individuals out there for whom a Periphery double album just wasn’t enough, Animi is a godsend. Subversion have brilliantly succeeded in their quest to take all of the things that make people like Periphery and then do them for forty-four minutes. It’s like Christmas morning all over again; shiny, clean, high-tech djent, but this time it’s a surprise! And if that doesn’t sound like the best thing since sliced Juggernaut, I don’t know what to tell you.