Oct 7, 2012
Serpentine Path - "Serpentine Path" ...
In many respects, looking at the band members previous bands tells the story with this album so not many words are needed to explain this self-titled album. It is a cross between Unearthy Trance and Ramesses but with more of a emphasis on a sludge and death-doom mix. Given the pedigree of its members, this album is kind of predictable but always in a good way. While the former bands that these guys were a part of delivered some very long songs built around doomy excesses, this band are fairly straight-forward by comparison. There is nothing over 6:40 and what you are left with is a very concise sludge metal laced death-doom album designed to crush though the use of big torturous riffs in songs that never meander so don't expect any 15 minute doom-scapes in the vein of Bagshaw's Electric Wizard - "Dopethrone" days. However this ends up being a good thing given that, those former styles are an acquired taste. This album is an album that can and will please death doom and traditional doom fans but it also has more than enough extreme sludge moments to satisfy those people after something more intense.
Opening track 'Arrows' begins with a recitation from the Book of Revelation before heading off into a no-bullshit death-doom chug-a-thon which is surprisingly catchy given the musical extremities that these guys are well-known for delivering in the past. Incredible production backs up the wonderful bass-heavy riffage but it is the spot-on delivery of the vocals that perhaps impressed us the most with this killer album, they are cold and basic but perfectly executed so those wanting the vocal diversity of the Unearthly Trance variety may see this as a bit of a let-down but to us, it is ideal for this project. Second track up 'Crotalus Horridus Horridus' is part lumbering beast and part slithering demon which is fitting seeing as the track is named after a medical term for a species of venomous pit-viper. The launch into a monstrous groove from time to time on this album but this gem of a track has one of the very best of grooves this album has to offer.
'Bats Amongst Heathens' makes the most out of what is a fairly simple deathly doom track that is under four minutes long. 'Beyond the Dawn of Time' gives a slight nod to Bagshaw's Electric Wizard past at first starting with a sample from the horror movie classic 'The Last House on the Left'. As the song builds however it heads into the murky depths of funeral doom. This song comes at a point in the album where this slothful change of pace is welcome but the band has obviously taken some care over song placement for this release and it works wonders in keeping this album captivating all the way through. 'Obsoletion' is the albums most psychedelic moment while 'Aphelion' is the fastest and most direct moment of psych meets doom rock so by default sounds like the obvious choice for a opening tune for a Serpentine Path live show (although they said in one interview that this is a recording project only).
'Compendium of Suffering' and 'Only a Monolith Remains' close the album wallowing in death-doom waters and while normally it would be easy to say this is generic, predictable stuff, in the case of Serpentine Path they make it sound fresh and very potent. Given the experience of its line-up Serpentine Path have recorded a piece of work you would expect from seasoned professionals but it is also a welcome step away from the experimentation of Unearthly Trance and the sonic excesses of Ramesses and Bagshaw's early Electric Wizard days. The band are not trying to show off or going out of their way to be extreme just for the sake of being "heavy" but rather they have set out to make a captivating death-doom release, pure, simple and above all else......monolithic and in that light, they have nailed it. The sound on this is massive but most important, the songs are all memorable with not a second wasted throughout its 41 minutes. On the one hand, this album is a bit stock-standard but it is also a perfect document on how to make death-doom immensely enjoyable without being pretentious......9/10.
Words: Sally Bethhall & Ed Barnard
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