Saturday, 6 October 2012

Serpentine Path - S/T

I can still remember finally getting my hands on Unearthly Trance’s Seasons of Seance, Science and Silence. I had been trying to track the album down as it had a description along the lines of “...crucifix shaking, bleak, unholy crippling doom!”. I finally found it in Missing Link in Melbourne, on a weekend which found myself and my band cohorts at the time with $12 to our collective names upon departing home (which we chose to spend on a bag of goon, incidentally) for the weekend of shows which would have us sleeping on half a couch each, face down in our own grot, still clad in our sneakers and jeans in order to contain the majority of the funk. There wasn’t much to do in between our shows, other than to alter our states and blast that CD. It instantly appealed to me. It was equal parts creepy and nightmarish. It made me think of what the results would be if Iron Monkey ran really fucking hard at Electric Wizard, and by chance, formed some super congealed black tar you could pour into your ears in some state of “melt into the couch” paranoid bliss.

Well, many years later, and most importantly an Australian Tour later, Unearthly Trance gave up the ghost and called it a day. I was pretty bummed about it, but totally stoked I got the chance to see them live. They truly were one of those bands that I thought were uncompromisingly and hurtfully thick and heavy, like the flat face of a cricket bat straight to the shins. So you can imagine my excitement when I caught wind of three of the members forming Serpentine Path, particularly as the blurbs all read similar to this one:

Crushing cult death/doom featuring current and former members of Electric Wizard, Unearthly Trance and Ramesses! - Relapse.

All of a sudden that whole “congealed black tar” statement has come to life, like some monster from the black lagoon crawling out of bed after a night long session on the turps drinking Bundy and Guinness.

So I guess the real question here is whether or not the LP can live up to those increasingly overused stickers that the record labels paste all over every release these days, hyping it and attempting to make you part ways with your money (Serpentine Path have been termed a "supergroup", you know. Does this mean they wear their undies on the outside of their jeans?). The short answer is FUCK YEAH! Consider me a believer.

I have lost a lot of faith in many types of heavy music these days, for various reasons (predominantly because I hate “the kids” and can’t work out how to google the e-mails on the intraweb like “the kids” are doing to all Lars’ music these days!!!). But I had a lot of faith in the musicianship that would go into the writing process, as well as the attention to sonic detail this record would present.

The low end, provided by Jay Newman of Unearthly Trance, really comes across LOW, thick and black like Turkish Coffee. Likewise Ryan Lypinsky, also of the 'Trance, delivers his vocals in a fashion that has never sounded quite so deep, gravelly and full. Both of these aspects of the record have me thinking a little of Japan’s Corrupted (perhaps?) as an influence. It’s that kind of bleak and bone blackening, evil sound that I heard on Unearthly Trance, but perhaps a little thicker and slightly less atmospheric.

The riffs, because even a geriatric cantankerous prick of an individual like myself knows that “riffs” are all the rage with “the kids” these days, leave one feeling like the schoolyard bully has forced you into a barrel and is proceeding to roll you down a hill for the amusement of him and his pals. Yet unlike many albums I hear at the moment, they move on before that boredom that has you headed to the bar in a live setting sets in. Little highlights and overdubs are timely and present without appearing unnecessary or detracting from the pummeling weight of the songs. In fact, this is probably the key part to this record; it keeps the listener interested and has enough going on to invite me to repeat listens. I am, as I type this, on my fourth straight spin and can easily see myself grabbing another coffee, turning up the amp and not doing any of the most basic and remedial of tasks I had set for myself today.

The bottom line is that this is a solid album that, whilst it tips the hat to the members' former projects, more than holds it’s own and then some. Harass your local record store and Heathen Skulls, turn up your subs and annoy the piss out of your mum/housemates/annoying neighbours. If sludge and doom be your taste, then you’ll be left wanting to hear much more from this outfit.

Jon Dangerous

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