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Good... but boring as hell - 51%

Napero, June 8th, 2010

One of several metal bands with the same name or some variation of it, this particular Serpent plays doom metal that mixes roughly 70% traditional doom with about 30% traditional, rocking heavy metal, and finds itself up in the faster end of the doom metal scale. Both brands in the mixture are rather old-schoolish versions of their subgenres, and In the Garden of Serpent ends up sounding very orthodox, almost antiquated.

After deciding to blend those two wonderful, fertile subgenres of metal, Serpent chose to use very old-schoolish guitar sounds on their music, an almost 70s-sounding soft distortion that shares certain characteristics with a set of electrified furry dice, and wouldn't feel out of place on a stoner doom album. That suits the band perfectly: with the clean baritone vocals with a mild vibrato, and a embracing clean bass, it creates a timeless atmosphere, and In the Garden of Serpent becomes very difficult to pin down on any time scale between the end of the 70s and the modern day.

Serpent also managed record the songs with a nice, traditional and very balanced production, and every instrument and vocal line is audible to the last detail. The result is also quite heavy, if not crushing. It has more of a "suffocation by a huge pillow" than "crushing by a steamroller" feel to it, and it, again, suits the traditional setting perfectly.

So, we have a very good traditional metal album in our hands, extremely suitable for the fans of Cathedral, Candlemass and their kind, do we? Well... yes and no.

The problem with In the Garden of Serpent is the lack of any anchorage, any points that would grab the listener's attention and fix the mind to any part of it. There are riffs, even good riffs, but none of them stick to the mind. The vocals are quite OK, even good, but none of the parts or even the choruses manages to glue itself to the brain. The music is there, but it slips away like a dead eel down a garbage chute, and leaves no memories whatsoever. Neither does it feel new when it gets a new spin after a month. It just... is.

Somehow the immense potential of the band, with their technically skilled performance -even though the music doesn't really require very advanced technicality- and well considered stylistic choices, has forgotten to write good, catchy songs with hooks and ideas. And this kind of traditional metal sorely needs those. A few more pronounced riffs every now and then, a catchy chorus or two, or even a melody in the vein of 80s Candlemass would have helped Serpent across the stony field of mediocrity; the makings are there, but that mysterious something is missing.

In the Garden of Serpent is a fine piece of work, but it's more like a very well-made fence next to a car impound lot or a very good corner diners' hamburger than an architectural masterpiece or a culinary feast for kings. While it serves its purpose, and does that very, very professionally, it never rises to the heights it definitely has the potential to reach. And that's a pity, really. It's good, but it's also utterly, unsalvageably boring.

What a pity, indeed. Sigh.