Tracklist01. Crowd of Nobodies
03. The Tremens
04. The Fall of Mercia
05. The Weight of Oneness
08. Bitter Boundary
09. Books for the Dyslexic
10. Gay Rodeo
11. Kiss and Kill Your Boyfriend
12. Miles Away
13. Between Heaven and Her
14. Use Her Friendly
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Subscribe are many things: a traveling band of Hungarian alt. metal prodigies, one of the best Rage Against the Machine cover bands I’ve heard, and now, with the release of Áthangolva \ Retuned, possible saviors of adult contemporary and lounge music. Over the course of one of the cooler live albums I’ve heard in a long time, Subscribe (with the help of a small orchestra and a bevy of backing vocalists) transform some of the more memorable songs in their catalog into lounge, salsa, reggae, and other markedly not-alt. metal genres--arrangements courtesy of Subscribe's keyboardist Cséry Zoltán. But not one song feels contrived or silly. The arrangements are gorgeous, fully-featured, with new solos and vocal melodies. Truly, Áthangolva feels more like watching an entirely different Subscribe concert from an alternate Earth where Al Gore won the 2000 election and the individual members of brokenCYDE were instead shot into crusty socks.
“Crowd of Nobodies” kicks off Áthangolva with an injection of brassy lounge, followed up by a reggae-inflected version of “Journey,” but I actually want to talk about “The Tremens.” Why? Guest vocalist Koszi Janka. Janka opens “The Tremens” with a stunning solo vocal performance that is one minute and a half of unadulterated auditory bliss. When the rest of the band and the orchestra kick in, the song explodes with the careful tenderness of a Care-Bear suicide bomber. “The Weight of Oneness” leans heavily on its strings and keys, while “Rebirth” is a strikingly spare piano and vocal piece. While they’re great for the entirety of the performance, “Rebirth” is where Subscribe’s pair of vocalists, Csongor Bálint and Tilk Máté, outdo themselves on Áthangolva. Trading off vocal duties for the entire show, both Bálint and Máté exercise the kind of control, restraint and power over their voices in ways you wouldn’t normally expect from the frontmen of an alt. metal group.
Throwing recent fans a bone, Subscribe work a cluster of songs from Bookmarks into the chewy caramel center of their show. “Álomtégla” opens with deep cello tones that cede to delicate piano and bursts of violin. The first chorus is left instrumental, but the second chorus crescendos with pent up urgency. Following that, “Bitter Boundary” might be the most recognizable analog on Áthangolva. It doesn’t change all that much, but the orchestral touches and a violin solo give the song an interesting depth—and of course, Bálint and Máté kill it along with their small corps of backing vocalists. One of the few stumbling blocks of Áthangolva is “Books for the Dyslexic,” however. It’s another more direct translation, but it doesn’t work nearly as well as “Bitter Boundary” did. Good thing “Gay Rodeo” saves the day! “Gay Rodeo” is just a magical song, output during the performance as a brassy, keyboard-laden reggae jam— it’s still campy as hell and entirely aware of it, with the backing vocalists even singing out “Shiny shimmering!” during the chorus.
A single-song detour from Bookmarks songs, “Kiss and Kill Your Boyfriend” brings back the salsa with a bit of island flair. With lots of brass and extra percussion, it might be the most energetic track of the night—so it crashes up mightily against the dramatic piano and vocal performance of “Miles Away.” As it does on Bookmarks, the almost 10-minute long “Between Heaven and Her” follows, opening with an extended trumpet solo and guitar groove. And oh god, is the first chorus satisfying when it finally drops, four minutes in. The trumpet sticks around for the entirety of the song, offering an otherworldly sort of ambiance; otherwise, the song is played straight, but I can forgive Subscribe this time, because I’m not sure “Between Heaven and Her” can actually be improved upon.
The final two songs of Áthangolva leave Bookmarks behind for good. “Use Her Friendly,” no lie, goes straight up southern rock, complete with tortured organ, sweet riffage, and soulful vocals. It somehow feels wrong, but at the same time, oh so right. And “Highfly” closes the album, entirely unsurprisingly, with a funky, sort of 70s disco wall of groove. Out of place? At this point? Fuck no. Subscribe prove they can maneuver through pretty much any genre while enlisting a pocket-sized orchestra. Starting the night off with a few slow jams, Subscribe pick up the energy, cram all the musical influences they can into the middle, and then the end of the show can only explode into a colorful cacophony of brass, strings, percussion, volleys of vocals, and hell, some keys. An album like this isn’t just one for fans of the band—it’s for people love all kinds of music, plain and simple.