Released: 2013, Profound Lore Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Listening to MORE CONSTANT THAN THE GODS, I was presented with the mental image of the “black blizzards” from 1930’s America. Slow moving winds of utter darkness that from a distance appear to be completely innocuous, but as the blackened clouds breach closer, their true menace is revealed. A sprawling, bleak force of nature that eliminates all surrounding light, enveloping all within its path and sparing few, if any, in the process. This latest release from Salt Lake City doomphiles SubRosa approaches the listener in much the same fashion. It opens with a sense of discreet apprehension, the true scale of its power yet to be actualized. But by the end of the first track, you’ve realized that you’re caught in the first wave of black clouds, with the full brunt of Mother Nature to follow. All you can do at this point is to hang on and pray to your maker that you see the light at the end of the storm.
Combining the swollen, low end riffage of bands like Unearthly Trance and Yob, traditional American folk influences, and the matter-of-fact lyricisms of Nick Cave/PJ Harvey, SubRosa weaves a unique musical tapestry that is tremendously effective. Additionally, the band boasts two full time electric violinists, utilizing the instrument in ways that I’d never heard in the context of a “metal” album. Far from being relegated to the background for select ambience, the violins are essentially the guitars of the album, utilized front and center for an unprecedented display of heaviness; everything from twin harmonies and resonating feedback to the traditional nods to classical melancholy, it’s beautiful to behold. The traditional four and six-string instruments are used as anchors to the arrangements, marching to a funeral procession drum beat; predominantly dirge minded and sludgy minimalist progressions that balance the weeping strings of the violins. The latter half of “Ghost of a Dead Empire” exemplifies this dynamic the best, and as such is arguably one of the most moving musical passages I’ve heard in a long, long time. Guitarist Rebecca Vernon handles lead vocals and sounds at times like a more stable Courtney Love in her prime, but violinists Kim Pack and Sarah Pendleton provide additional layers of harmony and depth. Sometimes it’s a desperate plead, sometimes an emphatic shout, and sometimes it’s a whispered lullaby, and it’s yet another layer of dichotomy to an already dexterous outfit.
MORE CONSTANT THAN THE GODS packs 67 minutes of gut wrenching sadness into the six tracks on the album (the shortest clocking in at 7 and a half), and is best experienced in its entirety from front to end. Whether intentional or not, each time I’ve listened to the album, I’ve found myself letting it run its course and hearing something new each time. The six tracks complement each other amicably, baring structural similarity to its brethren but each owning its own unique identity. Whereas the aforementioned “Ghost of a Dead Empire” is a desperate wrist splicer, “Cosey Mo” is a more upbeat (as upbeat as this band can get anyway) and catchy tune. “Fat of the Ram” borders on experimental drone, while bookends “The Usher” and “No Safe Harbor” are a sonic yin and yang; each being hauntingly moving and melodic, yet contradicting each other in tone and approach. Individually, each track is stellar in its own right. Collectively, this album is flawless.
I only happened to become aware of MORE CONSTANT THAN THE GODS through some positive word of mouth on social media, so consider this me doing you a favor by alerting you to this album now. SubRosa is a name you need to become familiar with, and MORE CONSTANT THAN THE GODS is an album that any fan of doom/sludge/stoner/original heavy music should have in their collection. In a year that’s already given us so many exceptional doom metal releases, this easily ranks as my personal favorite and I suspect you may feel the same after giving it a listen. MORE CONSTANT THAN THE GODS is available now through Profound Lore Records.