Kent-based tech-metal outfit Subversion are a five piece with an ear for melody and musical ability best described as jaw dropping. Following up the band’s acclaimed debut, ‘lest we forget’, ‘Animi’ contains ten tunes that neatly draw together the disparate threads of brutality and memorably melodic hooks and keeps the listener absorbed throughout.
Opening with ‘born of the sun’, there is little in the way of preamble before the band employ their own unique brand of dizzying rhythms, technically devastating guitar work and occasional meandering synth patterns that add an unusual dynamic twist to proceedings. It’s a hell of an opening number and one that leaves you in no doubt that Subversion are something rather special. With both clean and brutal vocals delivered with passion and proficiency, the band are careful in their deployment, avoiding the trap of so much metal-core and not simply offering up the staid brutal verse / melodic verse formula. It highlights the fact that, from the off, Subversion are not simply interested in rehashing the ideas of others and have something original of their own to offer. A vicious follow-up, ‘catalyst’ is the band at their heaviest, coming across as a mix of Meshuggah, Korn and Godflesh, the band augmenting their mechanistic, metallic riffs and rhythms with some well-placed electronic elements that always keep the listener guessing. It’s a full-tilt, brutal stampede and an early highlight of the album. Next up is ‘imperfect’, a track that opens with subtle electronica and which wrong-foots the listener before taking a trip into terminator territory, all juddering riffs and gleaming percussive blasts. It’s not an easy ride, to be sure, but it’s sure as hell rewarding and the payoff is the occasional burst of melody that pierces the bleakness and allows a moment’s respite from the otherwise hellishly violent music that surrounds you. ‘Revelation’ heads back into Meshuggah territory with its grinding polyrhythms and stuttering electronica making it sound like a madman attempting to filter the Dillinger Escape Plan through a Kaossilator! ‘illusion of eternity’ is, to an extent, the sort of song that would make the perfect extreme metal single with its huge riffs and pounding beat guaranteed to get people head banging.
‘Entropy’ is a good example of the band exercising their technical chops with awkward guitar riffs, rippling synths and syncopated percussion all combining to send the listener spinning off into a darker, spacier place. In contrast, the stuttering rage of ‘in order to live (part 2)’ is a monochrome explosion that barely maintains its coherence as the band head off into fully-fledged jazz territory. Utterly uncompromising, it marks out the band as a band of blinding ambition and ability, and when the track collapses into a beautiful ambient passage, it’s only the icing on the metallic cake. Short and sweet, ‘Pariah’ is the briefest of tracks which comes out of left field with its clean vocal, glistening piano and synth highlights. However, the track segues quickly into the lengthy, melodic epic ‘Novation’ which stands apart from the rest of the album with its soulful lead vocal and emphasis on emotion over aggression. It is this sort of digression that makes the band so special and fans of the extreme need not worry, for the song soon proves to be the album’s most convoluted blast of white hot metallic fury. The title track concludes proceedings and leaves the album on a high. With its creepy samples, full-tilt riffs and throat-ripping vocals, it is as perfect example of a hybrid death metal / electronic piece of music as you could hope to hear, matching perfect production with stunning musicianship.
I missed Subversion when they first appeared on the scene and I owe a friendly contact from across the seas a hearty vote of thanks for introducing me to this excellent band. Neatly bringing together technical metal, passionate clean vocals and electronica is no mean feat, and yet Subversion make it look easy. Every track is interesting in its own right and there’s not a dud moment here. Moreover the band don’t fall into the simplistic trap of repeating themselves, always mixing things up and keeping the listener on the hop. It’s a trick that pays off because ‘Animi’ is never dull. You can track the album down via bandcamp (linked below) and all the usual outlets, and I strongly recommend you do. True, Subversion are a band who will appeal to the extreme metal community, but with their strong melodies and electronic elements I feel they have a broader appeal without having made any compromises. Give them a listen, you’ll find them a most rewarding experience.