Dec 28, 2011

SubRosa - No Help For The Mighty Ones ...

The latest album from Salt Lake City's SubRosa is one that I somehow missed over the past year. The problem was their previous album, 'Strega' didn't do much for more so I didn't go out of my way to hear anymore from this band but it seems I made a bit of a mistake. This album titled 'No Help for the Mighty Ones' is no masterpiece in my book but it is a big step from their other recordings, at least according to my tastes. What is curious and interesting is this band gets more mixed reviews than most other bands. A quick Google search and you will see this album gets called brilliant by some and downright boring by others so I am intrigued, what is it about this band that creates such varied reactions.

I think one of the elements that might be a turn-off for some is the heavy guitars tend to be in the background to everything else in the band which is an odd approach for a doom and sludge kind of band, which is what SubRosa is. The vocals are a little off-kilter and quirky while the band itself is rather unconventional with three women and two guys in the band. Whether that plays a role in how the songs sound I don't know but there is something unique about this band that at times is perhaps too unique for its own good. 'No Help for the Mighty Ones' is a slow and lumbering album with an emphasis on haunting melodies and discordant violin work and like I said before, the guitars tend to take a back-seat most of the time. Most of the songs are built around repetition and the less-is-more approach - sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

There is no question that this album has an infectious charm with some of its melodies which is the albums strong-suit. The album opening 'Borrowed Time, Borrowed Eyes' has a chilling melody that sends a shiver up the spine and is totally mesmerizing but the instrumentation is kind of ordinary. The band can play and are all very capable musicians but there is little on this track to get excited about from a musical point of view. However that opening track and the following 'Beneath the Crown' are the albums highlights for me, over in the first 14 minutes of the album. The album is at its best when it is at its heaviest and most doom-laden, I am not saying that because I dig doom, it is just because the album falls a little flat when it takes unconventional detours.

The biggest offender is 'House Carpenter' which I think is an old folk song. There is nothing wrong with throwing the listener a curve-ball now and then but in this case, they would have been better off leaving this 3 minutes off the album, I just don't like it at all. Elsewhere the album is up and down in quality and all within the same songs. 'Attack On Golden Mountain' is the pick of the bunch for the rest of the album while 'Stonecarver' is also an interesting track. 'Dark Country' has a great haunting feel but over-stays its welcome after 8 minutes. The rest of the album is not bad at all but not overwhelmingly good either.

This album is offbeat, dissonant and a little odd while still keeping the traditional doom metal boundaries in check. Even the vocal harmonies (which sound totally off in places) are unique and while there are some excellent passages, there are also equal amounts of boredom. Having stigmatized the album with my own point of view, I have to be fair and say that some people will adore this album. I tend to think of them as Bloody Panda meets Earth but you can make up your own mind. Half good, half ordinary and tedious but always interesting and unique, SubRosa's 'No Help For The Mighty Ones' is an album that despite its flaws takes a big-step from earlier works so if you liked them before, you should go crazy for them now.........7/10.

SubRosa Official

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