Released: 2002, Outlaw
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. This is the project of Ron Marks who was in Celtic Frost for about a year from the summer of 1987 to the summer of 1988. He did an extremely obscure solo album then disappeared to the best of my knowledge from the music scene for well over a decade. I’m very pleased to see that Outlaw is NOT pushing this heavily as “ Featuring Ron Marks Ex-Celtic Frost!” because in reality Marks was not a huge part of the Frost legacy and this new material bears no resemblance to Frost at any point.
What Subsonic is a decent little one-man band. I may be mistaken but I believe that Subsonic is a completely done by Marks. Everything, writing, arranging, producing, performing, recording seems to be done by Marks. In fact I am slightly suspicious that this was not mostly done on a computer because there is a conspicuous absence of any info about the music. There are no notes that I can find on when it was recorded, what instruments were played, or who played on it, if anybody. This as I said, this lack of info is odd because usually with this these one-man bands the artist in question usually goes on and on about all the cool equipment they used, and so on. It doesn’t even really say if Marks actually plays on it or sings? Is that his voice? We have to assume so.
Another odd point is that the first single, “Will It Go Around in Circles” is a cover tune and it is listed as a bonus track at the end of the CD. That doesn’t make sense and I’ll say it again…DO NOT release a cover tune as your first single! It screams, “We don’t have confidence in our own material and would rather go the safe route and launch a familiar tune on the people.” Every time I see this situation I think, “Why the cover tune?” Can’t you find a better original song to push?” Covers are novelty fillers that should be on EP’s compilations, B-sides and stuff and certainly not your lead single. If that wasn’t enough, the band choose a super-obscure cover. Who the hell is Billy Preston? If you are going to release a cover tune to get attention, at least release a song that people recognize. Subsonic have shot themselves in the foot twice (or once in each foot) with that decision. IF this was a totally computerized one-man project, I am a not surprised as it has a very modern, mechanical and technical sound. This CD is very, very overproduced to my ears. There are lots and lots of techno type sound-effects and lots of voice effects.
My whole gut reaction on this disc was not good. My initial impression (on first listen) was that this was my least favorite release by Outlaw Entertainment so far and an anomaly in their catalogue. I wondered why they signed him and released this bizarre industrial sounding record. On closer inspection, if you strip away the electronica and can forgive the other little problems, there are some great rock ‘n’ roll songs on this disc. Assuming it is marks on guitar he can play quite well with good acoustic interludes and a very decent and ripping solo on the aforementioned “Sweet Cream Commercial Creature”. The underlying songs buried beneath the muck have a great classic rock and roll fierceness to them that will very probably sound very different and much better live.
Marks is a pretty decent lyric writer, very modern, very sincere and believable. I like his little stories contained within the lyrics and his general anti-commercial stance on tunes like “New Age Freak of Nature”, “Sweet Cream Commercial Creature” and lead-off track “Lick The Lie”. I also like the world weary, semi-depressed tunes like “Just Hit Pomona” and “A Day Late”. Marks might have an oral fixation with many songs speak of sucking, licking, kissing, tongue, mouth’s and so on, but that’s cool…rock ‘n’ roll is an oral tradition, singing, drinking, drugs, and of course sex, if you doing it right.
I think Subsonic could be much better. They need to get a band, play live and inject that live spirit of rock ‘n’ roll that they (he) obviously possess. Drop all the electronic crap, speed up the songs a tiny notch, hit the studio and do the next CD with a loose live feel and it will be a big winner. Until then, SUPER-VEL remains a competent, interesting, curious (and accordingly fairly unique) full-length debut.