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I recall when The Serpent was originally released, all the "hardcore" kids rioted over it and had tantrums similar to the way fanbases turned on Avenged Sevenfold with City of Evil and Atreyu with Lead Sails Paper Anchor. In fact, it seemed to be a trend for all metalcore bands to release an album that's less metalcore and more alternative metal or heavy metal. Good for them.
While fans weren't overall accepting of The Serpent, I certainly was, and though I do not enjoy almost any metalcore albums nearly as much as I did then, I cannot say the same for this album. Still Remains managed to burn their name in the best of metalcore history by turning away from the boring stereotypes of the genre and release something interesting, creative, and even slightly unique. Even their debut, Of Love and Lunacy, was able to separate itself from the herd.
The Serpent is a powerful fusion of melodic metalcore (note the melodic, in that Still Remains leans far more on the melodic death metal side of metalcore than the hardcore side of metalcore) and alternative metal, and they alternate between these styles repeatedly. While the entire album is definitely keyboard-laden (they are so present that they are the major source for my enjoyment of this album), tracks like "Stay Captive" and "Sleepless Nights Alone" eschew metal riffs and growl-scream vocals in favor of a completely keyboard-driven sound and an utter reliance on poppy clean vocal hooks. Though "Dancing with the Enemy" attempts the same sound, it's not nearly as memorable as the aforementioned two which are so catchy they're definite highlights.
On the other end, songs such as "The Wax Walls of an Empty Room," "The River Song," and "Avalanche" are full of groovy, excellent riffs that will really satisfy one's thirst for actual metal in this album. Don't think they abandoned the catchiness though. In fact, these songs are equally catchy and include some of the most sickeningly sweet keyboard melodies on the album (the opening and chorus of "The Wax Walls of an Empty Room" probably IS my favorite keyboard melody on the album). It's the way these songs unite the crushing riffs with catchy keyboard and vocal hooks that make these songs so good. "The River Song" is likely my favorite for this.
Lyrically, this album manages some impressive moments as well. "Anemia in Your Sheets" and "The River Song" managed to catch my attention with the writing style while "Sleepless Nights Alone" merely manages to pull at my heartstrings with a tale to which I relate. It's "Avalanche" though that impresses me the most with its Final Fantasy VII-related subject matter, something which made the Final Fantasy fan in me scream in glee. On the other hand, tracks like "Dropped from the Cherry Tree" and "An Undesired Reunion" may contain deeply personal messages, yet they are blunt and unmoving due to the lack of even a single shred of poetic grace.
Ultimately, The Serpent is a fantastic album that has separated itself from the metalcore pack and succeeds by turning away from the tropes of metalcore. The riffs are commonly in line with heavy metal or melodic death metal and it's contrasted with hugely impressive, ever-present keyboards and vocal hooks that actually work. If "melodic metalcore" ever existed, this album is the very definition of it. I suspect a lot of people not so impressed with metalcore might actually enjoy this album, assuming they can ignore the colossal accessibility level of it. I know I certainly enjoy it.