Subterraen – In the Aftermath of Blight Review

Sludge is a genre naturally able to bridge and wholly fill the gap between a rage that stretches towards hardcore, and a more pensive and somber emotionality more at home in doom, or post-metal. Therefore, when faced with Subterraen’s label of “Atmospheric Post-Sludge,” I knew this shapeshifting propensity would be amplified, particularly in the latter direction. Unfamiliar with the group before now, they instantly won me over ideologically with their ongoing theme that began with debut Rotten Human Kingdom. This theme, examination of the human condition from the perspective of our destruction of the natural world, and a defense of animal rights, is taken to its next logical step in In the Aftermath of Blight, which, as the name indicates, explores the nature of the damage humankind has inflicted on the earth, and looks ahead to the terrible legacy we leave. But enough about their concept, Subterraen are making music, which must carry its own weight.

In the Aftermath of Blight swings like a slow pendulum between malice and mourning, with much emphasis placed on ringing, blunted melodies that sharpen into focus for the most pathetic points and noticeably dissipate for the most angry. A healthy mixture of rough, barking screams and hardcore-esque shout-singing maintains an overall feeling of ennui and discontent, emphasized by the near-constant roiling and crashing of mid-tempo percussion. The atmosphere in question arises through fades into spacious, resonant plucking, humming bass, and the soft touches of synth that wrap guitars and vocals in warm abstraction at the edges of passages, if they aren’t warping and warbling all of their own accord, echoing the stringsmen’s notes. At the same time, the lurching, “womp” of pitch shifts as warm melancholic refrains slide into cold apathetic ones, giving even the melodic aspect just that little bit of satisfying bite. With a pleasing breadth from chilled-out to grungily gutsy, this all results in a very moody, vibey, extremely listenable record.

In the Aftermath of Blight by Subterraen

The best way to describe In the Aftermath of Blight is with the word “bleak”. There’s something indescribably sullen about the solemn stomping and washed-out melodic themes that dominate the centers of compositions (“Poisoned Waters,” “10:27”). But there’s also something indescribably plaintive about the more pointedly forlorn pieces that rise and float (“Paving the Way to Oblivion,” title track). And it’s the way that the latter frequently morph from the former—through atmospheric strumming (“Poisoned Waters”) or suddenly heart-wringing surges (title track)—that makes their relatively short lifespan and eventual passing into nothingness leave the listener feeling empty and downtrodden. This feeling seems entirely intentional, reflecting the lifeless, barren wasteland adumbrated throughout the album, and in its art. What at one moment is bitter at the next is blue (“Poisoned Waters,” “10:25,” title track), with languid, lamenting, stripped-back, and reverb-soaked refrains pulling wrath into woe (“Poisoned Waters”) and sometimes back out into stirring pathos (“Paving the Way to Oblivion,” “10:25”). Coming to a culmination in the first act of the closing title track, the tension between anhedonia and ardency manifests in a shifting interplay of melancholic melody and meanness whose hazy echo and ringing blankess leave a chill.

As strong as this impression can immediately be, Subterraen do little beyond what is necessary to make it. Comparisons to Yob, and Neurosis appeared in the promo material, and these are pretty much on the money. Perhaps too much so. The music is strong but without idiosyncrasy, managing to be solid and absorbing whilst playing, but fading too far into indistinctness when not. Similarly, there are stretches of In the Aftermath of Blight where things progress too slowly towards those finest, most beautiful, powerful, and impactful passages, that I now know are coming, and they pale beside them. The stirring refrains, woven through “Paving…”, arising in the back half of “Poisoned Waters,” and driving the title track are intelligently layered and satisfyingly steely with the help of dense sludgy chugging, and the balance of delicate atmospherics. The remainder is, as intimated, comparatively flat and dispirited; a vibe, to be sure, but one that appeals to a particular taste.

Despite anything said suggesting the contrary, I’m glad that Subterraen, and In the Aftermath of Blight found their way to me. Subtle, atmospheric, and poignant enough to feel like it fills a musical and emotional gap, even if it doesn’t blow the genre out of the water. It’s something you can stick on whilst musing wistfully on the state of the world. It might hit you harder than you expect.

Rating: Good
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: WAV
Label: Frozen Records
Websites: Bandcamp | Facebook
Releases Worldwide: April 12th, 2024

The post Subterraen – In the Aftermath of Blight Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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