Salt Lake City’s SubRosa has triumphantly returned with For This We Fought the Battle of Ages. SubRosa have steadily released truly fantastic releases since 2005 with multiple EPs and LPs. 2013’s More Constant Than the Gods raised the bar for the band but also for the entire genre of doom. Three years later, the hopes and expectations for For This We Fought the Battle of Ages have been blown out of the water.
For This We Fought the Battle of Ages again offers exquisitely constructed doom with ever increasing beauty both from the dual electric violins as well as the vocals. SubRosa’s vocals have always been wonderfully executed, but there is an increased grit that pushes through in the vocals. This grit alludes to maturity in vocal style and delivery as well as in the life of the vocalist herself. The added harshness only enhances the dynamics of the vocals and allows the softer vocals to shine brighter and cut deeper.
Every strum, every stroke, every word has been carefully thought out and woven together in a tapestry of at once thrilling and sombering tunes that rise and fall like the tides being unfurled and rolled back while the sun and moon take turns waltzing through the sky. The love and attention to detail that was painstakingly cast into every track on the album is immediately apparent, but none of these tracks ever feel calculated or forced. Every bar is filled with the passion of five lives that have been wrought with loss and hope and discovery all to align together to forever be melded into this glorious and breathtaking album. Nothing was done without emotion.
Tracks like “Wound of the Warden,” “Black Majesty,” and “Killing Rapture” all showcase the SubRosa that we have fallen in love with over the last 11 years. Every note is breathtaking and perfect. Each track comes in at over 10 minutes. While they all feel a part of the same series, each track is a novel in their own right. The heavy parts are heavy but never really aggressive; this allows the intensity to be strong and passionate rather than angsty. The softer and more emotive parts gorgeously shimmer like the full moon reflective on an icy mountain pool.
“Il Cappio” and “Troubled Cells” are stars that shine just slightly dimmer than the other four tracks on this album to me. “Il Cappio” is a minute and a half of minimalistic plucked violin and a single voice that is singing in another language. This track does act as something of a straightforward and short relief from the epic journey traveled on the songs before it. While beautiful, it does not stand up to the other songs on this album. “Troubled Cells” is another song that is as lovely as it is pure, but I feel that it follows a more standard songwriting formula than the other tracks on For This We Fought the Battle of Ages. While it feels slightly less musically challenging, this may have been intentional as not to distract as much from the challenging lyrics. Noisey spoke with SubRosa about the meaning behind the lyrics of this song here.
The standout track for me is the album opener: “Despair Is a Siren.” Every note and melody, once heard, are made inherently classic and timeless while still being fresh and rejuvenating. It is the sound of the earth feeling a coming change: a new age. It is the sound of the earth softly singing to the birds and the trees, to the animals a soft lullaby to comfort and prepare them for what is coming next. One of the things that help this track stand out is the bass guitar performance in many of the transitional pieces of this 15 minute epic. The way that the melodies were arranged to use the bass to harmonize with the guitar and violins is absolutely awe-inspiring. I would say these songs were not written and performed, they were orchestrated.
SubRosa is music of old gods, wars, heroes, and loves. This album is the twilight of the past and dawn of the new epoch. You could match any track on “For This We Fought the Battle of Ages” to any classic and epic story of old and it would only serve to augment that tale. Spinning this record is like curling up in front of a fireplace with a glass of scotch and your favorite book during a thunderstorm. Listening to the album in its entirety is like finding your first love, losing that love, and realizing that you are ready to keep living and grow from your experience. You cannot listen to this album without being changed, and the record reveals deeper and more interesting secrets with every listen.
— Josh Thieler