Why SubRosa are taking doom metal into bold new waters
Hailing from Salt Lake City, SubRosa’s struggles with faith and freedom has see them emerge as one of the most celebrated and original bands on the doom scene
"Growing up in the church, around church culture, I never fit in with it, ever. The philosophy of how the church operates is too parental, too condescending, it’s like trying to protect people from the truth in a way that doesn’t contribute to their development, or their confidence in their own ability to choose for themselves.”
Rebecca Vernon, SubRosa’s singer, guitarist, songwriter and guiding light, is expounding on themes explored on the Salt Lake City doom quintet’s immersive new album, For This We Fought The Battle Of Ages. Themes of freedom and control, ageless concerns, have bizarrely found their way to the forefront of her psyche via a 1920s Russian sci-fi novel. Written by twice-exiled naval architect Yevgeny Zamyatin, We is a proto-1984 future-world dystopia following the poignant path to realisation of a man named D-503, serving the world government OneState in a society where imagination is a sickness and freedom is feared. When did it first dawn on Rebecca that this book was something SubRosa should write an album around?
“It was within 20 pages,” she recalls. “It perfectly captured so many things I’ve felt my whole life, it really spoke to me. By page 20 I was thinking, ‘We need to write the next album about this book!’”
Which ideas resonated the most? “I’m a huge believer in the individual over collective happiness, the individual over
the group. I know that’s such a simple belief, but We captures that really well. I believe in the individual’s ability to choose for themselves, and not have other institutions inflicting their will on an individual conscience, thinking they know better. Those ideas aren’t rare, but they’re the core of how I live my life. I’m not very good at putting it into words, but like art does, We expresses it 10 times better, with so many layers.”
Like the album, in fact. The subject matter is given a radiant, evolving musical arrangement representing the totalitarian darkness and psychological horror of the scenario, as well as the essential light of hope and human spirit. Broadly based around the book’s themes, Rebecca’s lyrics are entirely her own reflections and interpretations, rather than a straight narrative retelling.
“The things the characters go through are applicable to all our lived experiences,” she asserts. “D-503 is going through an awakening I think everyone can relate to that moment where you start to question some belief you hold dear and realise it’s not true. As you get older that experience becomes more complex and painful; you have to shed older beliefs and open your mind to new ones as you sort through the new philosophies you’re hit with. It’s hard when you start to feel something different but no one around you is feeling that way. It happened to me so many times, I feel I can relate to him.”