As with their previous albums, the latest LP from Salt Lake City's SubRosa, For This We Fought the Battle of Ages, has been eagerly anticipated by the metal underground and is sure to cause some conversation about the different shapes that doom metal can take. Not a band to be pigeonholed into a particular style, SubRosa have always stood out from the pack by fusing a very sorrow-filled kind of doom with a subtle chamber music influence, thanks to the haunting violin-manned duo of Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack. Since their 2008 debut Strega, the band has evolved immensely and truly dialed in the sound they're going for, and each SubRosa album makes for a listen that is deliberate, haunting and ultimately, quite special.
For This We Fought the Battle of Ages requires patience to get through. This is not an album to be grasped upon the first play-through, nor was it meant to be; that much is clear by its five densely layered tracks and sole contemplative interlude. A quaint, emotionally-charged bass-line opens "Despair is a Siren," containing a haunting melody that builds upon itself before the full band thunderously stampedes into a full-on doom onslaught. If despair is indeed a siren, never before has it sounded so towering. Drummer Andy Patterson carries the song with a powerful, minimalistic beat, while lead vocalist/guitarist Rebecca Vernon might as well move mountains with her illustrious riffs and folky, soulful croon. If there's one thing SubRosa are able to achieve on the same level as some of their peers, it's raw emotion — the primitive kind of emotion that can only be stirred by music of this caliber.
As mentioned earlier, this is an album that requires patience of the listener. It'll take nearly 45 minutes just to get through the first three tracks alone, with the short "Il Cappio" serving as a soft interlude, separating the first half of the album from the second. SubRosa truly is a unique entity within the doom scene; there really is no other band that sounds quite like them. There's something very impressionable about the way they're able to weave dissonant, haunting violin passages between the threads of what is very much a traditional doom metal foundation, and the vocal duo of Vernon and Pendleton makes them all the more noteworthy. "Wound of the Warden" is a real standout on the album, showcasing this dichotomy perfectly with a smokey melody and spacey punctuations on the strings.
As strong of an effort For This We Fought the Battle of Ages is, it doesn't appear to grab the listener quite like its predecessor, More Constant than the Gods did. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly why this is; perhaps it's because the vocal melodies don't have the staying power quite like "The Usher" and "Cosey Mo" did, or perhaps it just requires a few more listens to leave that lasting impression. Regardless, For This We Fought the Battle of Ages is still certainly worth the time of anybody who calls themselves a doom metal devotee, or even those who are looking for the more adventurous side of metal. SubRosa is no doubt one of the most forward-thinking bands in the entire genre, and as long as they continue to push the confines of what doom metal can be, they'll continue to stand out, and perhaps even surpass some of their contemporaries.