Serpent Venom

Of Things Seen & Unseen

Written by: EW on 10/08/2014 19:42:11

Here on their second album London doomsters Serpent Venom offer a highly competent if slightly uninspired take on traditional doom metal, which yet over the course of my interrogation across a number of weeks is doing a commendable job at heralding the genre gods in a most honourable manner. There are many bands out there doing a better job at sounding unique within doom than Serpent Venom, and I’d like to think they themselves know this, but on "Of Things Seen & Unseen" their honest no frills approach is much more a positive than a negative.

Granted, that mindset didn’t get me hot under the collar in anticipation, unlike the upcoming Pallbearer and Yob releases, but the pounding of tracks like "Death Throes at Dawn" and Gaz Ricketts’ wailing vocals offer an engaging inroad to the organic heart of this release. Slow is of course the order of the day, but for the most part Serpent Venom are heavy - somewhere in between Goatsnake, the Gates of Slumber and Electric Wizard - with a thick bottom end to their sound which reverberates with the slow procession of notes emanating from Roland Scriver’s guitar. Tonally there is nothing too fancy coming from his or bassist Nick’s strings but I like the fact the band sound too leaden weight for fast movement, a compliment I have historically tended to reserve for Dorset’s finest mentioned above. Opener "The Penance You Pay" sets this stall out with little variation throughout the song making for a solid introduction but one that needs greater imagination to give off vibes that the remaining seven tracks are going to offer anything new for an experienced doomster. "Sorrow’s Bastard" takes a while to find it’s feet before entering into a lightened air that would have fitted Heaven & Hell’s brilliant LP from a few years back. The bookends for "The Lords of Life" make the track sound out of place with their utilisation of a washy stoner guitar tone too reminiscent of Kyuss in the context of the album, especially so right before the kitsch instrumental of "I Awake”. This short piece is playing the Sabbath "Fluff" card but feels much too fragile even for it’s purpose of a mid-album respite and is easily my least enjoyable song of the lot.

Thankfully "Let Them Starve" blows away the cobwebs with more lugubrious riffing and a similar feel to the opening trio until the first appearance of an up-tempo section appears to show a genuine other side to the band, one that would be beneficial if used more widely. At 9 minutes "Pilgrims of the Sun" is the longest track and every effort at a doom crawl is attempted, one that persists throughout without ever losing it’s bloody-minded focus, before “Burning Free” closes the album out in much the same fashion as how the overall album has progressed; the funereal chords ring out loudly and apocalyptically but by this point the track doesn’t feel distinct enough to provide the listener a strong lasting impression. In essence it sums up the Serpent Venom experience for it’s commendable solidity in all the vital areas but the absence of an x-factor restricts the band to 2nd tier status alongside the likes of The Gates of Slumber and Witchsorrow. With more willingness to experiment and a further honing of their craft, however, I can easily envisage a day that Serpent Venom might be striving for promotion to that top division.

Download: Sorrow’s Bastard, Death Throes at Dawn
For The Fans Of: The Gates of Slumber, Heaven & Hell, Goatsnake
Listen: Facebook

Release date 27.06.2014
The Church Within Records

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