19. SubRosa, For This We Fought the Battle of Ages (Profound Lore)
The Salt Lake City, Utah band turned in – dare I say – one of the finest doom metal albums ever released three years ago with More Constant Than the Gods in 2013, and the greatly anticipated follow-up delves even deeper into darker territory. Once again, the core of the band’s unique sound is the interplay between Rebecca Vernon’s sludgy riffs and the dual violins of Sarah Pendleton and Kim Pack, and this album, which was greatly inspired by Yevgeny Zamyatin’s dystopian novel We, leans hard on that instrumental give and take over the course of four gargantuan compositions. Vernon always creates strong tension and release with the contrast of her mellow passages and heavy moments, but those heavy moments feel even more punishing on this record, as if a great emotional weight looms over everything more than ever. It’s sad and ominous, but always human throughout, in that the songs nevery shy away from vulnerability, which is often frowned upon in a genre so obsessed with power. The coup de grace, however, is closing track “Troubled Cells”, in which Vernon confronts her Mormon upbringing with unflinching courage and sorrow. For This We Fought the Battle of Ages is not an easy listen, and I’d even go as far to say that it’s the toughest album in this year’s top 20 to digest, but with patience the rewards are plenty, and life-affirming.