There are moments or occasions in the career of bands where the musicians must look at what it is they have created and feel a real sense of achievement. Not in the sense of having completed a record or ticking the boxes, but in the sense of genuinely knowing that something has been accomplished in the 45-odd minutes of music they have just laid down on record – knowing that you have succeeded in your effort. Alium, the latest release for Submotion Orchestra, is the Leeds ensemble’s moment of triumph.
In previous releases it’s been abundantly clear of the influences the likes of dubstep (I almost shudder to say it) have had on this band – not dubstep as we know and hate it now, but dubstep as it was back before Skrillex committed his crimes against music – and the same goes for Alium. Except that on this occasion there is better production in the sound, it’s far more electro-driven than the more organic dub sounds the band have produced on the likes of Finest Hour, which isn’t something that should be considered bad.
If anything this is a truer homage to their roots in that genre given the fact that it is a style of music that is driven by technology; it makes sense that this album be heavier on the synth and sound effects. However, for all the grandiosity of this development the band still manage to keep what has become their signature style, the quality of their musicianship. The anthemic Time Will Wait is the first big sign of what’s to come, with rolling bass and snapping drums among a cacophony of noise that moves you along to the rhythm. Further on, in the likes of the more instrumental tracks (City Lights, Chrome Units) the band shows just what they’re capable of, and fuck me does it not disappoint.
From a personal perspective, it’s the way that Submotion Orchestra can create such emotive and dramatic bursts of music that sets them apart – you feel like you’re a part of something carrying importance when you listen to this album, it’s almost a bit cinematic in that way. And this is a trend they have continued onto Alium with the whole album feeling as though it’s building its way up to a grand finale, a climax of cymbals that will bring about the end of this record.
The record’s last three tracks are a testament to the above, and the fact that they are all sublime musicians who have developed this unity in what they do. In particular I found the run of the last three, and Bring Back the Wolf in particular, provided a strong finish as the album was drawing to a close, but in truth the whole record is strong and self-confident.
Submotion Orchestra now sound like a group that have been together for 5 years, they sound like a group that has that level of experience in music, and in this album they sound like a band that are at the top of their game. Trust me, anyone who listens to this album will not be disappointed. Rather you should settle in because it is an all-encompassing experience to listen to this record, to this band – Alium is a proud marker for this band and a record which should get them some well-deserved acclaim in the world of music critics.