Despite having the most un-Googleable artist/album name combination in existence, the Hungarian band Subscribe have beautifully combined influences of hardcore, heavy metal, progressive rock and what-else-have-you in their latest release, Bookmarks.
Oh, sure, it starts out innocently enough with the orchestral track "Griping Portentous", featuring the most nightmarish combination of brass and sound effects possible. Of course, that's still pretty standard fare; they're just llulling you into a false sense of security before pulling a u-turn and heading off into god-knows where territory; before you know it, they're freely mixing melodic vocals with screaming, acoustic guitar with heavy electric chugging, and bright synths with only the spookiest-sounding keyboard effects possible. And that's just on track two ("Delusion").
The rest of the album is just as chaotic and unpredictable--"Álomtégla", for example, features some excellent prog metal arrangement and what I'm guessing are Hungarian lyrics, "Gay Rodeo" digresses into some jazz, and "Miles away" is just a soft piano ballad. "The Final Relief" and "Orchitis" are some of the best hardcore-inspired moments on the album, perfectly emulating the hallmarks of the genre while still branching out and making it their own. "Books for the Dyslexic" is notable for its rhythmically confusing breakdown about halfway through, not to mention the incredibly juicy bass work, awesome keyboard solo, and one of the best closing riffs I've heard. My favourite piece, "Bitter Boundary" starts off unassumingly enough, emulating some nice classic rock with its bright piano, melodic vocal lines, and soft acoustic guitar. The moment I realized this album was every bit as crazy as it purported to be, however, was when, out of nowhere, this child-like chorus started backing during the refrain. I almost laughed aloud in good humour at that moment. Probably the strongest moment on the album, though, is on the 8-minute progressive rock epic "Between Heaven and Her"--in true progressive fashion, the piece changes tempos and moods constantly without ever losing its flow, all building up to an incredible death growl/melodic vocal interplay at the climax.
I can find little wrong with this album upon reflection; what Subscribe are doing they're doing extremely well and enjoyably. The only real thing I could say against the album is that it doesn't quite sound like they're really doing all they're capable of just yet. For all of the fun and randomness in this album, it is still, for the most part, relatively 'safe' in its composition. These guys could really belt out something crazy if they let themselves go just a bit more, and I would absolutely love to hear them at full steam.
I will say this--Bookmarks is incredibly fun to listen to. It continually keeps you guessing and is incredibly satisfying to hear up through the last note. I don't think yet this is the best we'll hear from Subscribe, though--there is a little bit of room for improvement. But if what I'm hearing is any indication, these guys are going to offer up some of the best eclectic metal yet.
7.5 / 10
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