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Serpentcult formed from the ashes of doom band Thee Plague Of Gentlemen after scum of the earth vocalist/guitar player Steve MacMillan (real name Steven Wackenier) was arrested for sexually abusing children, which immediately split the band up. The remaining members soon got together to form a new band with female vocalist Michelle Nocon. They take an an unusual approach here, mixing doom with groove metal. After hearing the band mixed these two styles I was initially hesitant, but after giving it a listen my fears were quickly put to rest. While some songs are better than others, this is a successful first recording.
The chunky sluggish riffing here is complimented with a sludgy guitar tone, adding power and thickness to the riffs. The groove influence is certainly an interesting inclusion, instantly making this distinct from other doom records. It definitely gives the riffs a unique flavour. The production is what really makes the release. This EP is really heavy, deep and unpolished. The tone is good on everything, especially the bass. This is more apparent than ever in "Screams From The Deep", where there are a few sections where the only instrumentation is the bass and drums. Being distinct, powerful and very deep, the tone on the bass is impeccable and thoroughly badass.
The only real drawback to this release is that the bookend tracks are far superior to the middle two tracks. At times it feels that the production is the main thing carrying the middle tracks. On the first track, "The Harvest", the vocal lines steal the show. Michelle wails away, coming off like like a female Sabbath-era Ozzy, with a higher technical prowess. For the closing track, Serpentcult cover Uriah Heap's "Rainbow Demon". This cover turns out great. While the band adapt it to their own style, they do not go full out. Instead, they opt to meet in the middle of the their style and the style of the original song. This compromise turns out to be the best thing they could do - neither heaviness nor catchiness is compromised.
These musicians seem to recovered from the horrible demise of their previous band quite well. With the addition of female vocals, this makes for a very good first offering. Despite two tracks somewhat lagging behind the other two, there are no bad moments. This unique blend of groove and doom turned out to be not at all a bad idea.
The Chronicles Of Doom: Part III.
Serpentcult are perhaps my first taste of what it is like to blend groove with doom metal and may I just say, it’s fucking excellent. ‘Trident Nor Fire’ is the debut EP from the Belgian group whom are beginning to take the metal world by storm. The hype surrounding this band was not something I initially bought in to. I decided it would be wise to wait and see what they had to offer for myself, as opposed to believing the mass hysteria surrounding their first slab of material, which many say is the beginning of something spectacular. Having heard the EP now, I can safely say I concur with the majority. Serpentcult are a band who will go far with this sound if they stick to it and explore it further. My review will aim to state why.
First, female vocals aren’t to everyone’s liking, especially in a genre where the extreme is loved. Doom metal has and still does pride itself on being one of the most extreme variations of metal. It’s a genre that doesn’t allow compromise and is often very harsh on it’s audience with down tuned guitars and punishing percussion sections. ‘Trident Nor Fire’ is different. It’s fresh, exciting and new. Doom metal is hardly decaying, but every genre, be it in metal or not, needs bands who’re willing to experiment with the traditional elements and give them a modern day twist. This is where Belgium’s Serpentcult come into the picture. Firstly, people must understand that this isn’t a straight up doom metal outing, this has elements of the groove sub-genre included in it and to brilliant effect, I must say. My knowledge of groove metal is lacking, to be honest, but as I’ve said before, I tend to ease myself into new sub-genres by listening to unique acts that blend a style I’m more adapted to and familiar with as opposed to launching myself into a genre I know next to nothing about. Although I haven’t been listening to Serpentcult for long, the impact of this short EP has given me the desire to search out more bands of this nature.
I recently discovered that a debut full-length is expected out sometime this year, which has left me with high expectations, which I didn’t initially have coming into the bands sound. This is another indication of their massive appeal. I believe the groove elements that come mainly in the form of the guitars will appeal to metal fans in general, as opposed to just appealing to a specific target audience. The doom metal elements of this EP are on show for us all to see, but they’re subtly blended with groove metal to make it seem more melodic on the surface, when the material is actually very harsh in sound due to the distortion the lead guitar takes on. I was apprehensive to begin with when listening to this EP because A) Serpentcult only implement one guitarist, whereas two is usually the standard these days. Incorporating two guitarists into the mix usually allows for more expression and a better assortment of intertwining riffs. However, Serpentcult do not let the simple fact that they only use one guitarist hinder their progress and finally, B) Serpentcult use a female vocalist. Male vocalists usually adapt to the doom metal traditions a lot faster than female vocalists. The harsh guitar tones, which do consist of a lot of melody to be fair, are harder to adapt to for female vocalists because, obviously, men tend to have deeper voices. Her voice has a distinctive edge and is very catchy when the lyrics can be made out. However, my apprehension was short lived.
‘The Harvest’ is the first track on the EP, and the best in my opinion, and eliminated all fears I had before I listened to this EP all the way through. Michelle’s voice is superbly adapted to the sound that Serpentcult emit. One can tell the amount of time and energy put into assembling this EP has paid off. The groove elements which included in ‘The Harvest’, are transmitted primarily through bass and lead guitar. These elements of the instrumentation do not overwhelm Michelle’s voice. She shows on this song that she is perfectly capable of living up to the standards most fans expect from the doom genre. Whilst her vocals are clean for the most part, the fact that she doesn’t delve into the harsher form of vocal variations doesn’t disappoint. As stated, her voice is perfectly situated between the melodic guitars and the awesome bass, which isn’t overwhelmed or overpowered either. Even the Uriah Heep cover, which I’ve not heard the original of, shows that Michelle can easily transform the sound of her voice to suit the soundscapes. ‘Trident Nor Fire’ is an impeccable effort from this Belgian act and should be taken very seriously. Pleasing aspects are much easier to find than anything else. The bass, which is ever present, is a positive to take. Usually, bass can be overshadowed in the metal industry, but Serpentcult’s solid musicianship and song writing has allowed them to utilise the bass well. The lead guitar is especially pleasing. The riffs the guitarist creates and melodic with harsher undertones, but also contain a fair amount of distinctive groove. Percussion is strong and packs a hefty punch too. ‘Trident Nor Fire’ is an excellent showcase of Serpentcult’s talents.