Reviewed: [September 2022]
Released [2022 Self-Released]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The Philly-based duo of frontman/instrumentalist Max Svalgard and drummer Danny Piselli return after a five-year break with a more compelling – and far less fetish-porn – band moniker, a fresh, though not unfamiliar musical perspective and a penchant for European guest contributors.
For about a decade, the pair anchored Fisthammer, which issued two albums and did a fair share of touring before splitting in 2015. Now operating as Sublation – which, per Webster’s, means “to negate or eliminate,” as opposed to Fisthammer, which means, well, “fisthammer” – the pair have a band name more befitting of the heady nature of the subject matter on The Path To Bedlam, which they describe as an examination of “deceit, corruption, and the lies humanity tells itself to justify its horrific acts.”
The music, though, is all over the map, with death metal, tech death, brutal death metal, progressive metal, black metal and metal/deathcore all figuring in the mix. Tech death is the most prominent element, but the band shifts gear with relative frequency throughout, either from track to track or in the body of a single song where disparate elements are stitched together, as on “Hypnotic Regression” and “Black Monday” where Lamb Of God-like groove meets flighty black metal trems or “Let The Fire Burn” with its Spanish guitar flourishes flavoring an otherwise deathcore bludgeon.
It can make for a disjointed offering, but after a long break – and the pandemic in the midst of their reunion – it would seem the creative juices were flowing for these guys, so they just took the ball and ran with it. And you can’t really blame them for that.
Along the way, the fellas secured guest appearances by Italian guitarist/vocalist Rocco Minichiello (Release The Blackness) for “Hypnotic,” and Germany’s Tom Geldschläger (ex-Obscura) for some shredding on “Haunted Shores” and Dominik Winter (Frigoris/Infesting Swarm) for vocals/creepy German monologue on “Black Monday,” proving yet again that the Internets can be useful for things other than trolling and porn. Piselli’s Coffin Dust bandmate John Norcross also chimes in on “Let The Fire Burn” – perhaps providing the flamenco flair by way of New Jersey.
Yet that brief acoustic foray excepting, Sublation is “always intense,” to borrow from Harry Dean Stanton in “Repo Man,” over Bedlam. They deliver nine ripping tracks – and the 90-second intro “The Sectioning” – in a terse, yet tenacious 35 minutes, as the pair would seem to have plenty of pent up aggression to go along with their burst of creative energy and, umm, hammer away with gusto.