I listen to a lot of doom metal. Probably not so much as black metal, but still a lot. And of all the doom releases in 2016, this monster by Subterranean Disposition is one of only a few that really got its hooks in me. Oddly enough, since I’m mentioning doom and black in the same sentence, SD is a one-man band — something routine in black metal, but quite rare in doom. That man is Terry Vainoras, though to be fair it’s not a fully solo endeavor, as Dan Nahum handled percussion. Still, Vainoras’ impressive list of credits includes composition, vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, and — believe it or not — tenor sax.
Vainoras quickly proves himself to be a man of many talents indeed. After an intro track, the curiously titled “Wooden Kimono Fixative” leads the way into the proper album, and sure enough, there’s that saxophone. It’s clear this is not your average doom record. Still, once the sax lays down a languid initial passage, accompanied by equally unhurried drumming, the vocals shatter the serenity with a savage roar. Their style is absolutely fantastic, brutal yet rather intelligible, akin to those of Paul Kuhr from November’s Doom. But they don’t just stay in that realm, instead alternating with spoken word and an odd sort of nasally clean vocal. “Wooden…” also sets the stage for running time, clocking in at just over 11 minutes. Get used to it, because the remaining tracks range from 10 to damn near 13 minutes in length, with the balance skewing toward the latter.
Thankfully, these weighty durations are deftly handled by skilled songwriting. The tracks don’t feel burdensome and make fine use of dynamics, shifting from quiet and ominous to waves of devastation. Through “Embittered,” “All Roads Lead to Perdition,” and “A Lifelong Slumber,” the material remains intriguing and engaging. “All Roads…” bears a striking resemblance to the material of Cult of Luna or Isis in their prime, the chameleon vocals even adopting the post-hardcore style for which those bands are known. “…Slumber,” on the other hand, showcases a clean, and quite pleasing, vocal that could easily be mistaken for that of Green Carnation. Well, minus the intense surges of thunderous doom that periodically punctuate it. This superb song is a plodding mammoth, never stampeding but taking its time to crush all in its path, and some of the less punishing guitar work also reminds of Green Carnation.
But “Contagiuum…” saves the best for last, to an almost terrifying degree. In fact, no album finale in 2016 set my senses aflame more than the one here, the seething, fiery “Aggressors Clothed as Victims.” Or, even though I love that title, what I could refer to as “The Donald Trump Song.” First, it begins with this quote from 18th-century philosopher Adam Smith: “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” That’s some choice shit. Then check the opening verse:
“To pass through the eye of the needle and arrive at some gate of reward
To live at odds with the truth — blinkered, bound and gagged.”
Right?! Come on, people. That’s art and life colliding, right there. And that awesomeness is but a prelude to the choruses, which erupt into mind-shattering intensity and — another surprise — black metal tremolo guitar! The raging fervor of these sections cannot be overstated, and every time I hear them I’m rocked to my core, spurred to air guitar madness, tense and bristling with emotion. Every. Single Time. The brilliant final lines go:
“Hegemony hammer home illusions of consent
Dystopia ad nauseam
Aggressors clothed as victims.”
Yeah. Could not have said it any better than that. What a welcome and necessary release in these troubled times, to have that rage channeled just so.
Subterranean Disposition has created a titanic recording that is unique in its approach, creatively written and executed, and highly rewarding. As inclined as I am toward doom metal in general, it is surely refreshing to encounter such works that set themselves apart and are utterly unafraid to walk their own path. Doom on, Terry. Doom the fuck on.