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Solar fuse enlightens the living doomed. - 90%

GrizzlyButts, November 26th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

The intellectual symbolism found within the oft-quotational lyrics and band name are at first somewhat perplexing. The name Serpent Column itself refers to a monument relocated from Delphi by the Ottoman empire to commemorate the Grecian defeat of the Persian empire. It represented many things as both a golden site of sacrifice and later a symbol of celebration of opposition to slavery. Interpreting the symbolism of ancient objects is better left to someone more academic, yet I will be eternally curious as to what studies lead these interesting musicians towards the name. ‘Ornuthi Thalassa’ is another interesting choice that I personally interpreted as ‘Hill-like Sea’ though I am no expert on Greek alliteration or interpretation, “ornuthi” could also mean “hovering” or floating if taken literally. Either interpretation goes a long way to describe the swirling mass of liquefied black/thrash metal that this mysterious band regales me with. There is pride and power behind the music of Serpent Column, it aspires to be both visceral and beautiful and I believe the result eclipses their goal in a sort of magically bruising barrage of existential metal noise.

You’ll be greeted by an ocean’s worth of warm, crunchy late 90’s Scandi metal distortion adding power to already prancing-yet-hideous guitar riffs. Like a god-hero soldier slashing away with a sword that could create waves, Serpent Column builds then rides flurries of chest-shuddered riff movements. Cascading modern black metal guitars gallop and trounce across a firmly chaotic battery of thrash metal informed chugs and snare knocks. It is spell-binding, as if DeathSpell Omega were in service to Arghoslent. The more moving, melodic riffs are handily borrowed from melodic black metals finest movers and shakers to great effect. The drumming is propulsive yet fully seated in the the erotic blast-fields of atmospheric/progressive black/death metal. I can’t think of black metal album with such a compellingly scented pair of gigantic balls since Svartdauði’s earth shattering ‘Flesh Cathedral’ back in 2012.

At only 36 minutes, each fire-borne song on ‘Ornuthi Thalassa’ trounces the previous with the vigor of a warrior. As the intensity builds, heavier structures are introduced while the more sentimentally melodic riffs grease me along the ride even faster. This record is perhaps too dense to appear beautiful upon first listen, but the subtlety beneath the crackling guitar push is leagues better than your average me-too, off-kilter extreme metal band. This is a strong and professional album that combines the darkest trends in independent music and gives a powerful shove of thrashing classic metal energy. A rare piece of mysterious music fully worthy of interpretation, of thoughtful examination.


Glorious debut - 95%

skoggangr, September 14th, 2017

Like a warrior leaping, bronze-clad, from the furrowed field of Cadmus, Serpent Column rises out of nowhere, fully formed. This new American two-piece plays towering, majestic black/death carried by blazing, virtuosic tremolo melodies, and driven home by a dizzying, kit-wrecking drum assault. Serpent Column finds the inner connections between seemingly disparate styles, weaving together the cathedral-esque atmospheres and abrasive textures of Deathspell Omega, the melancholy reverence of Finnish kvlt black metal like Sargeist, and the ripping death/thrash attack of Angelcorpse and Scythian.

The unifying impulse, drawing these disparate sounds into a single irresistible torrent, is the classically influenced songwriting of mastermind ‘Theophilos’. This aesthetic marks him as an heir to the sturm und drang of mid-90s Scandinavian bands like Dawn, Sacramentum, and Kvist, but Serpent Column goes even further – Ornuthi Thalassa doesn’t just sound like classical music, it has the dynamic, unified structure of a Romantic symphony. Each sick riff is just one of many closely interrelated melodies derived from a handful of stem phrases. For instance, the whiplash flourish that opens ‘Biogony II’ foreshadows the rolling, scornful climax of ‘Men Of The Polis’, even as it launches into the album’s first major theme. This heroically ascending melody is built from a single, propulsive three-note phrase that recurs throughout. Over this, Theophilos screams out his primal invocation – ‘Ornuthi, thalassa!’, or, ‘Rise, ocean!’

The lyrics – written in English, as a single epic poem, and then translated into Ancient Greek – lay out a sweeping mythopoeic history of the Western world, tracing a cyclic arc from the origins of life to the rise of man, from the pagan glories of Bronze Age Greece to the slow spread of the cancerous rationalism of Socrates. In the final track, ‘Feuersäule’, we hear this process culminate in the catastrophes of the present day. All the major themes from the album recur, transformed, as all the cosmic forces set in play converge. The oceans will rise once again.

But this dark story is told with a purpose – to ‘restore to us our sight’, and orient us for what lies ahead. We get a glimpse of what this might mean on track five, ‘Feldweg’, where triumphant, racing riffage erupts into a stately dance, and Theophilos asks the Muse to ‘Lead us, then, far from the cities of men,/To behold things that consume us’:

‘Here course primal waters wild
And whirls bios unfettered
To time’s mad pulses
Though no place, none,
Not the blackest gulfs of thought
Nor the dunghills of ἄνδρες
Constrain gods, for all is Macht.’

Originally written for Columnus Metallicus at The Quietus.