Written by: The Administrator
Yes. I can confirm that the rumors are true. We inksplattered inhabitants of the Sleeping Village's drafty scriptorium are, indeed, a bunch of big nerds. If a band backs their conceptual premise and presence with a lil' academic garnish, my interest is piqued. Enter Sublation.
Great music aside, this Philly duo--who are responsible for 2022's outstanding The Path to Beldam--has the distinction of making death metal that feels clever. While many bands that choose to explain the thematic undercurrents of their work often feel like they are overcompensating, the ideas that inform Sublation's work are truly thought-provoking. Beyond that, the conceptual structure feels integrated and essential to the music itself. It doesn't get much better than that.
If you are one of the (glorious, godlike, exceptionally well-read) few who checked out my list o' favorite 2023 EPs, you're likely already aware of my overall thoughts on the appropriately entitled On The Advancement of Decay. In interest of leveling the playing field, here's my conclusion in advance: I really like this project. It is clever, it is unique, it presents a cohesive voice. The individual songs are highly enjoyable on their own merits. The lyrics are some of the best in the business. Above all, this release is immaculately crafted--it is more than apparent how much care went into the final product.
With On the Advancement of Decay, the band overtly explores the concept of, well, decay. But in practice, what does that actually mean for the audience? In a nutshell, this lengthy EP sonically (d)evolves in real time, mutating through variations of technical death metal, melodeath, black metal, and pure atmospheric noise over the course of the project. Over 34 minutes, the tempo slows, shedding youthful bombast for a midlife midpace, and eventually settling into a true flatline. The modern sheen patinas, rusts, and withers away. The listener quite literally bears witness to the titular advancement of decay.
This examination is of course apparent in a musical sense, a sonic sense. However, the theme also informs the lyrical content, the production choices, and perhaps even minor details such as the use of capitalization in track titles. Everything contained within this package is clearly the result of much thought and consideration--despite featuring a wide scopes of sounds, it feels far from haphazard. Even where there are seams, the recognition of change feels like an integral aspect of the listening process. All told, the listening experience feels innovative; spending some quality time with this EP is like watching one of those oil paint videos wherein the artist attempts to color-match an object by adding a bewildering assortment of colors into a base color, mixing and scraping and adding until voila! The starting and the end color are miles apart, and it takes a series of incremental changes to get there.
Clever concept aside, these tracks all stand alone on their own merits. In other words, strong songwriting has not been sacrificed. On opener “Congenital Putrescence," Sublation's bombast and technical chops are on full display--the guitar moves lithely, the drums blast with urgent intensity. On the following "Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It," the vocals become meatier, more guttural. The guitar loses a little flash, delving further into blackened death metal pummel territory. Here, the groove-centric stomp is the star of the show--the riff that kicks in shortly after the two minute mark is an absolute crusher. While this track is a prime example, it is clear that across the board, the band has focused significant energy into maintaining focus on hooks. Each track is seemingly built around remarkably catchy moments. Engagement remains extremely high across the breadth.
"Eclipse Awe"--a personal highlight in the tracklist--brings a more dramatic melodic flair, a notably melancholic tone that mirrors the lyrical focus on the decay of youthful exuberance. In contrast, "Idiopathic" leans into a thunderous aggression, a distinctly vicious edge that sets the stage for the more overtly blackened "Born Out of a Whim." "this little death" is a true black metal track both in desperate nihilistic philosophy and icy vibe. All of the meaty technicality of the opener has been shed at this stage in favor of a significantly less full-bodied harshness. This penultimate track bleeds towards claustrophobia, filling any gaps with noise, which inevitably leads into the final level of decay on closer "we were never meant to live this long," a lengthy foray into the cold embrace of atmospheric ambient drone. Here, an semblance of familiarity is gone. There are no genre relics of the past. At eight minutes with nearly imperceptible variation, the final track drags to a point that feels first unsettling, and then meditative. There's a certain acceptance on the part of the listener--it is less of a question of how the advancement of decay comes to an end, more of a question of when.
Anyways, onward to inevitable conclusion. If you are A. the type to make year end lists, and B. have made the critical error of locking everything in before giving On The Advancement Of Decay a listen, it brings me great pleasure to say that you probably fucked up. But fear not! No harm, no foul--when discussing projects worthy of year end recognition, a certain timelessness is near-requisite, and I for one plan to take this project far into next year's rotation. I applaud Sublation for trying something innovative, and in a world where the quality of the concept all too often exceeds the actual final product, I applaud them for absolutely nailing the execution. Lest there be any doubt, On The Advancement Of Decay comes very highly recommended.
Sublation - On The Advancement of Decay was independently released December 8th, 2023.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that wakes us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.