Monday, May 2, 2011

Review: Subject To Thoughts - The Culmination (2010)

I don’t like doing this, but I don’t have too many good things to say about this release. I’m sure a lot of hard work has been put into the making of this album and into writing the songs. But the end result doesn’t sound good to me. I guess the duo of Mark Mendieta (who created this project) and Brandon Strader will not like me very much after reading this review, but I can’t help the way I feel about this album.

I’ve heard various self-produced albums over the years; some of them sounded very good (Sinthome for instance; it’s also a bloody brilliant album), others were average and a few very bad. This one sits somewhere in the average to low ranks and this affects my judgement of it.

This album suffers from bad production and sound; it’s muffled, condensed and fuzzy; the programmed drums and the average singing aren’t helping the music. The melodies themselves are not bad but could definitely use much of the brushing and treatment of a much better production (give the guitar the power it needs to be heard); better vocals and real drums would also greatly help.

All of these just make the album drag on and feel like a chore to listen to. Which is too bad, since there is potential lurking underneath in the song writing. There are some good tunes here like Closure To The Soul, Memories Embedded Within, Remaining and The Culmination, which would sound great if produced properly. Actually, on The Culmination and Remaining some of these drawbacks I mention seem to take a step back and the band seems to shine through, as if recorded a bit differently. The vocals are stronger, with more punch and energy; the guitar is more alive and the keyboards provide a more colourful palate.    

The songs are well written and structured, but due to the production, there is no spark, no magic to bring them to life and engage the listener. The music, as the band says “can best be described as Dark Melodic Progressive Rock with a New Age mood too it”. It is mostly somber and melancholic mid-paced progressive rock, striving to have this big and epic sound, but fails to do so. I’d also like more dynamics in the music, more variation, as it seems to linger on in mostly the same volume, rhythm and pace all the time.

They cite their influences as being Dream Theater, My Dying Bride, Anekdoten, Enchant, and Katatonia. I don’t hear any of these here, but maybe it can give you an idea of the mood and atmosphere you can expect here.

At the risk of this sounding patronizing (which it isn’t meant as, at all), I’d like to encourage the duo of Subject To Thoughts and especially Mark, to continue making music and to aspire to get better, develop and try and improve the downsides of this album. I do think that they should continue in the path that they set for themselves, develop what they created in songs like Remaining and introduce alongside better production, variation and dynamics.
Anyway, just because one person on the Internet doesn’t like your music, doesn’t mean much anyway, so they could just ignore all I wrote and be happy with what they made. 

The Culmination: 2010 
From Sunrise to Sunset: 2007 
To Embrace the Light: 2006 
From Emptiness to Beyond: 2005 
The Thought Process: 2003 (cassette demo) 
Outlook: 2001 (cassette demo) 


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