Review – Subversion: Animi

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  • Bio: n/a
  • Label: Self-release
  • Release Date: March 2nd, 2015
  • Genre: Melodic Death Metal, Metalcore, Technical Groove Metal
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

United Kingdom’s Subversion is one of those acts in the underground that has picked up a great deal of steam since forming in 2008. The six piece from London, England, stormed onto the scene fairly quick, issuing their debut concept album Lest We Forget independently. 2013 saw the Novation single, followed by the Transcend EP, both of which the band released themselves. For 2015, we are given their follow-up full-length, Animi. With so much buzz going around about this effort in certain circles, it’s hard not to wonder what this powerhouse could possibly bring to the table. But does the multi-style influenced Technical Groove/Djent oriented group offer a complex outing that will stay lodged in your skull, or does it simply exist to induce migraines?

Subversion is a group that blends in a few different styles to create a sleek, somewhat technical in execution experience from start to finish. The main foundation largely relies on Technical Groove Metal and Djent compositions, the type you would find on a Meshuggah album, but laced with Dark Tranquillity and even In Flames style Melodic Death Metal, As I Lay Dying-grade Metalcore tendencies, all wrapped up with elements of Electronica, symphonics, and even Dub-Step (or what comes off as). Much like those latter three examples, the production is as crisp and digital to play up that shiny new coating aspect, though not in a way that revokes the bite. The guitars are loud with a rich distortion when you can make it out, the bass guitar is present enough to give a bit of a backbone from time to time other than the obvious bass drops, the drums sound pristine, and the mixture of snarling and shouting vocals come through nicely. Sadly, this doesn’t mean Animi sounds good overall.

The first problem of this release, and easily the most damning, is that the band tries to get a little too technical with the execution of their guitars. It sounds as though every note struck is immediately muted, creating a sort of strobe light effect, but with sound waves. While not a major problem at first, it does get irritating really quick and can induce a migraine as bad as the fit someone with a seizure or epileptic disorder would have while staring at the flashing light version of these sort of notes. “Born of the Sun” introduces this right away after the Electronica-based introduction that plays a similar rhythm to the melodic leads you hear later in the chorus. Without them, the aforementioned guitar work sounds barren, allowing that glaring issue to come through, especially when the pace suddenly shifts or an additional layer handled in the same way but louder and at a slightly different pace winds is placed atop the rest of the the instruments at times like a minute-and-a-half in. You can even pick up that off-timed presence in the chorus if you listen close enough, hidden behind the aforementioned atmospheric hooks and decent to bad clean singing, the latter being the other major issue with this recording.

“Born of the Sun” is far from the biggest offender of that approach to the guitars. Parts of “In Order to Live Pt. 2”, including right off the bat, are just pure chaos. The blistering start throws things into more of an Avant-Garde world of insanity, obliterating your brain with fast ticks of chords that don’t get a chance to be anything more than what sounds like the noise of poorly held strings on the edge of a fret, or the fingers sliding down the neck of the guitar itself. This hits in all the faster segments, which are far more plentiful than desired, acting as a literal rocky road to the surprisingly angelic melodies that appear from time to time. There’s also a mixture of symphonic material over some Dub-Step effects towards the end, just after a final explosion of clean singing that puts a bit too much emphasis forward, throwing them terribly off with the final notes that hit before the mechanically grim climax.

There’s also “Novation”, which is just an obnoxious cluster of astral themes and noise/effects. Up first is the abusive quick guitar spurts that are found throughout. It gets so bad that the higher pitch notes played come off more like chickens just scratching their talons along the neck in a feeding frenzy. And then there are the terribly studio edited vocals that both cut in-and-out and go from one speaker to another. Two-minutes-and-fifteen seconds in sounds like someone burping four times in a row, going left to right, followed ten seconds later by clean singing already in progress that just comes in out of nowhere to cut off what little flow the song gained and even suddenly shift the track’s direction a bit. Throw in additional noises and electronic effects throughout, and you have an absolute waste of talent, especially shameful given the rich and emotional melodic passage that hits right at three-and-a-half minutes in, eventually moving on to emptier back alley eighties Glam Rock influence shortly after.

SubversionBut when the band drifts away from abusing those real quick guitar strikes, allowing them a second to hit the listener, it can sound pretty good. “Imperfect” relies more on melodies and additional symphonic elements than anything, cutting down how often the much louder for some reason technical leads are used. A lot of this can sum up “Revelation” as well, though the clean singing is a little more restrained, causing it to better suit the fluid motion of the chorus. Again, some obnoxiously short notes exist, though they mostly appear in the breakdown as you approach the two minute mark. “Catalyst” sticks more to a Lamb of God or current A Life Once Lost approach, but, while this one has a fair amount of aggression behind it, the chorus features some really enthusiastic clean singing that goes way off-key with the upbeat melodies being thrown your way. After this, some keyboards appear briefly, playing up the rainy darkness of recent Dark Tranquillity efforts, all before crashing into a noisy breakdown that isn’t bad, but just tries to do way too much to force the multi-style sound of the band in all at once.

But, of all the tracks, it’s “Illusion of Eternity” that shows the power this band has when they are on the same page as far as skill and execution goes. The skill aspect comes in by weaving some emotionally charged material that works following the standard groove-heavy riffs that are a lot tighter overall, not going too overboard with constant momentary gaps or strobe effect mutes. Even the chorus finds the clean singing right on par with the lower, slightly dismal tone, charging the performance like a thunderstorm that continues to build before crashing back to the thinned out technical chord approach once more. Even “Entrophy” manages to stick to this concept. Aside the keyboard-driven traits, it has more of a Metalcore approach akin to the sound of recent Caliban offerings, especially in the signature riffs that tread a bit into Shoegaze territory. But, really, these are the only two that have the slightest bit of staying power among the ten that make up this entire abomination.

Subversion, as a music group, has an idea as to how to stand with the likes of Insomnium, modern day Amorphis, or any good or bad Symphonic-heavy Metal act in existence, really. The problem is that the band’s execution is absolutely terrible. When on the same page and can create cohesive music, there’s no denying the emotion, mood, atmosphere, everything, ends up fantastic. But this is really only when the group heads into the overly melodic realm with restricted clean signing that stays on key that you can’t even begin to enjoy because of the aforementioned feeding frenzy scratching and pecking of the guitars that are pretty much always around, sometimes even within, these moments of beauty. It’s like someone handed a member’s ADHD riddled little brother a guitar, package of pixie sticks, coffee to wash it all down with, locked them in the studio, and called the recorded sugar rush “technical”. Think early Scar Symmetry with off-key Danko Jones singing and a drunken recording session between Meshuggah and Fantomas, all with a goal to piss you off before attempting to sing harmony back into your pathetic soul, and you’ll have an idea of what this literal cluster fuck/potential Gitmo torture device is capable of. Both as a critic, and on a personal level, if I never have to hear Animi again, I can die happy…

SubversionDigital review copy of this release provided by Subversion via Fresno Media.