Thursday, 17 April 2014

Serpent Warning - Serpent Warning (2014) / 92%

The Progression of Conservationism Through Doomed Tempos

Another Finn doom band, another success. This self titled album is the debut for Serpent Warning after a good demo released in 2012, the three tracks are featured here so if you missed that (you probably did), don't worry about it and check out this album as it's awesome.

The quartet evolves in a traditional, drawn out yet very catchy sort of doom. Serpent Warning is a six songs attack for the good old forty minutes length, with this duration it evades the risk of becoming tenuous. So many bands don't know how to edit their songwriting and it becomes a seventy five minutes mess that I, even if I'm a big fan of So Long Suckers, can't often endure. There's no time wasted here, the songs ranging from six to nine minutes are complete killers full of hot riffs. The mid paced tempos ensure that the listener is never bored and there's absolutely no fillers. The production is optimal for traditional doom, not too clear and heavy as fuck. It's a good reminder that we're not listening to saccharine Gothic doom pop.

It's heavy yet melodic, the sound is so rich that I thought the band had two guitarist but it's not the case. It's all the work of Antti Koponen who's very apt at keeping things rooted in a shrine of well crafted riffs and nice, short and sweet solos like the one on the self titled track (preserving the doom tradition of having a song bearing the name of your band like the forefathers of Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus.) The songs are intricate but at the same time, it feels simple and easy. Doom isn't a very hard style to play technically speaking but you need to play it with passion even if it's not complex. Plenty of bands fail at being competent doom bands because they mash decent but empty heavy slow riffs together and intertwine them with regular, boring clean vocals. You can check the new Pilgrim if that's your sort of thing, I personally forgot what I was listening after the second track on Void Worship. It's directionless unlike Serpent Warning. Indeed, the Finns crafted excellent meaningful dirges that are memorable.

The three musicians Serpent Warning are newcomers but it's truly not a factor here, they're more than competent and everything is perfectly tight. The bass can easily be heard, it's subtle and not in your face but it's definitely more present than in your overall metal band. It's important for a genre like doom that often relies on only one guitar since that's usually all you need. It's also cheaper to tour with fewer members, since the genre is unfortunately and frustratedly under-appreciated, it's essential to spend more money on beer since despair is always free.

The fourth member is also known to be in another great Finnish doom band, the bad boys of The Wandering Midget. Their last album From the Meadows of Opium Dreams was one of my favourite album of 2012. Samuli Pesonen's vocals is one of the highlight of this release, he sounds like Albert Witchfinder (Reverend Bizarre obviously) but without the dark crooners overtones and a slight higher pitched tone. His clean vocals delivery is great and he's perfect on these catchy choruses that are decorating the release like the opener “Evil River”. His accent is charming and his semi deep voice is a fit to their music. Sadly, he has left the band before the release of the album, he was replaced by a woman so we'll see how this will evolve their sound. I predict a The Wounded Kings-esque direction. They won't obviously turn into Blood Ceremony or Jex Thoth just because a mysterious entity with a different genitalia now handling the microphone, this would be a shame since their sound is interesting in its conservationism. No need to include progressive tendencies, keyboards or other random stuff that hipsters discovering metal through Pitchfork are using these days to be relevant. Strong songwriting and aptitude to deliver it is all you need. It's a proven formula!

“Nothing under the sun can change the way that we are”

Isn't that true enough? Doom is a music rooted in your gut, it's hard to fake an interest in the genre and those who do it are automatically spotted and deemed as opportunists (The Sword). Serpent Warning's only flaws that I can hear and see is the similarity between the songs and the fact that the album, apart from “Ceremonies of the Sun”, the best track on the album, is a real barrage of heavy doom without real moments to breathe. I'm not even sure that's a thing that I can complain about since it's obviously something they intended they do and it works well.

Certainly worthy of its great artwork (“Procession in the Fog” by Ernst Ferdinand Oehme) and its ominous yet enticing feeling, the band's debut signals that Finland is perhaps the best representant for trad doom in Europe with Lord Vicar now leading the charge and Fall of the Idols being one of the most underrated band to ever grace the genre. I think we can safely add Serpent Warning to the list of great Finn doom, I personnally can't wait to hear what they'll do next. It's probably not an album for doom newbies but the connoisseurs are gonna give it its due praise.

Serpent Warning on Facebook

Thanks to I Hate Records for the promo copy.

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