Subrosa – No Help for the Mighty One
I briefly touched on this album a few weeks ago but considering I’m working on an interview with singer and guitarist Rebecca Vernon and the fact that this is my favorite release so far in 2011, I figured I’d give it a real review. When I first listened to “No Help for the Mighty One” I wasn’t sure what to think. I knew there was something about it I liked but I couldn’t quite place it. After listening to it three or four times, I was completely hooked. Everything about the album works for me.
Subrosa are a Salt Lake City, Utah based stoner/sludge band and while they fall firmly into that category, they also have a post rock element, which, along with their vast influences that include the likes of PJ Harvey and Coven, sets them apart from other bands in this genre. And if that was enough, the band also has a couple of violinists, so that changing things up a bit.
The lineup consists of Rebecca Vernon on guitar and lead vocals, Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack on electric violin and vocals, Dave Jones on Bass and Zachary Hatsis on Drums. This album is truly a work where the whole outweighs the parts. The interplay between the guitars, base and violins really creates an overall beautiful sound, but if you were to break it down to the individual performances, nothing would be overly impressive, but combined, they compliment each other absolutely perfectly. WhileVernon’s guitar playing is really good and the rhythm section of Jones & Hatsis solidly pulls the album along, it’s really the violins that make this album. The music and the subject matter is pretty solemn and the addition of the strings adds a more harmonic texture to the music, one that resonates right through your soul and really enhances the overall mood of the music.
Lyrically, it’s pretty dark. “Borrowed Time, Borrowed Eyes” is based on the book “The Road” by ….. “Beneath the Crown” is based on a book about the eugenics programs in the early 20th century. “The Inheritance” is about animal genocide inAmerica. Even the classic Celtic folk song “House Carpenter” is pretty dark with its deathly tale of a woman leaving her husband and children for her lover. These dark themes accompany the music pretty well though.
Like most great albums, the artwork on “No Help for the Mighty Ones” compliments the album. Designed by Glyn Smyth, who also did the recent album “V” by Unearthly Trance, the artwork depicts the album concept in a very abstract way, and was inspired by the story of Terry Jo Duperault. (Google her story, pretty interesting) For notes on the design by the artist himself, check out his blog.
As those of you who read my best of 2010 posts, you may recall that I based my list on albums that kept me listening throughout the whole year. In 2010 it was Ludicra’s “The Tenant,” In 2009 it was Black Math Horseman’s “Wyllt.” So far in 2011, it’s been “No Help for the Mighty One.” I’ve had the album for about a month and when I’m not listening to albums to review, I’m listening to it almost exclusively and I find myself comparing every album to this one. As it is, nothing has knocked this release from the top and I suspect it will still be at the top or at least pretty close at the end of the year.