After releasing an impressive debut back in 2012, then proceeding to vanish amidst the shadows, briefly emerging out of the mist and fog with a cryptic 2-track offering in late Summer 2018… Serpent ov Old, perhaps the most interesting Metal project of the past 15 years (if only to the the present author’s particular personal perspective and tastes musical and otherwise), have finally released their long-awaited sophomore full-length.
It is the way of things that genres arise from culture and philosophy, as well as from personal interpretions of that culture and philosophy. In the case of metal, we see its subgenres and styles mingling in different ways to different degrees of acceptance and satisfaction by audience, artists and critics. In the case of Serpent ov Old, this has taken the form of an amalgamation of black metal and power metal, which has surprisingly and graciously bypassed the technicisms of death metal. And while there is word of power metal taking up death metal techniques into its repertoire, the mainstay of power metal has never executed this transition. The truth of the matter is that the melodicity and emphasis on comprehensible chord progressions of power metal has more to gain from the elegant emphasis on melodies-made-flows that the best of black metal has mastered inwardly. At the same time, Serpent ov Old makes music that stands primarily as evocative music elevated above discussions on techniques or style, even if the techniques and ways of expression have been clearly adopted from the sources mentioned above.
Serpent ov Old builds music by stating themes in the fashion of power metal, while balancing —purging— the saccharine effects by the application of black metal underpinnings in percussion, vocalization and guitar strumming. What we can hear is a music dominated by harmonic movement across which significantly active melodic lines move. Tension is built and released and then recaptured by both the melodic-harmonic interplay of lessons learned from black metal here, and those adopted from power metal there. Furthermore, the textural effects of the percussion and how these affect impulse, constriction and relaxation are taken primarily from black metal. The band makes this work by connecting power metal and black metal techniques to their common speed metal foundations, meaning that in many of the cases, the approach of the central riffing and percussion could fall into a nebulous area which both genres share in mature forms of speed metal, although this ambivalence is usually resolved towards black metal. As a whole, power metal is used as a bombastic paintbrush that allows Serpent ov Old to magnify the usually understated dramatism of black metal.
All this has to be accomplished tastefully, and we never find a reliance on trope or techniques: compositions are driven by the central, “invisible” essence of motion and contrast, and fluctuations of power and direction, by and for which the instrumentation exists. The “shredding” abilities of the guitarists in this work are used much in the same way that Trey Azagthoth’s atonal noise solos ripped through old Morbid Angel songs: as hyeroglyphs rather than as pretentious elaborations. These are to be taken as impressionist impressions, and should not be confused as baroque virtuosic displays, for such scale-based quasi noise shreds lack the self-sufficiency of the proper baroque solo instrument that we would hear in a work for viola da gamba by Marin Marais, for instance. And as one listens to the music more and more closely, subsequent spins allow the listener to perceive these relations properly, allowing them to see where the backbone is located, and how the peaks and valleys are formed by the creators of this landscape of poetic rashness.
The music of Serpent ov Old is fierce romantic dramatism akin to powerful forces of nature that destroy yet also create. By adopting and moderating the extroverted expression of power metal and delicately subsuming it under black metal, Serpent ov Old makes the music genres escape the narcissistic trap and makes them serve a transcendent expression of inner experience. Furthermore, this profound experience, if authentic, is one of darkness and anguish; but which darkness and anguish, if contronted and assimilated unto individuation, can presumably lead to the creation of a new type of being. However, the music is still limited by this personal flavor, which still tends to be merely inward looking, but not yet deep enough that a new space is opened up through the self as a gate. We may say that this is ultimately a question of personal experience, reflection and individual meaning. But ultimately, as music, it must be able to develop the ability to somehow come up with an aural language that can communicate a general intimation of what is presenced from beyond.
Note: We might yet see Withering Hope released under the banner of Deathwave Nexion.
D.A.R.G. : the statement below came to us from the leadership of Deathwave Nexion, and is published here as part of our continued support of outstanding music by people fostering genuinely dark philosophy through adversarial action.
Statement from DEATHWAVE NEXION Record Label and Publishing House:
Whilst remaining largely driven to the release of Neoclassical, Electronic and Ambient records, as detailed in the past and present efforts, our nexial decision to begin incorporating Heavy Metal bands into our cadre has come with no easy discernment. Purposefully aimed at quality over quantity, we have thus far approached or have been approached by artisans who we can collectively say are ‘masters of their craft,’ and no such lower tier of delivery should be permissible if our full weight of promotion and esoteric pairing are to be present.
We have selected a small group of individuals, each with their own sublets from which they are respective champions, but maintaining a shared lineup throughout. These are: DECIEVERION, a classic Black Metal act from Pennsylvania, and no stranger to the nightspirits of yesteryear; SHADOWS IN THE CRYPT, a ‘Sinister Cult’ from Pennsylvania whose sole purpose is to create the most menacing, hate-driven anthems of Devildom, and SERPENT OV OLD, the masterful effusion of many-years of learning through hardships and grief.
These three bands share one common thing among themselves: the members, whose efforts in the genre of North American Black Metal, and especially that which has thrived within the tri-state area, has existed and proliferated independent of genre-trends, subcultural infiltration or consumer interest. Nay, this Unholy Trinity has been, each respectively the bastions of inspiration, and each collectively, the circle of tradition, from which in the darkest times of the Black Metal genre’s foolery, have held down the fort for all of those whom have stayed pledged in allegiance to the dark.
What then separates the efforts of some small, underground, virtually invisible label, and its venture into the metal genre, from any other plastic theater? It is the fact that these “musicians,” are not just that, they are each individually, archetypes of the new aeon. The personnel surrounding the groups in question are antibodies within the mundane superstructure. Given to paths of sharp-living, recognizing no law, and no authority – foregoing the “normal” life which is emblazoned on the armbands of every reactionary, neo-Neckbeard; these are real criminals. They are dedicated to the dark deeds of the devil. In this, their journey towards restoration of principles once commonplace in Black Metal might yet see a renaissance, and in their seedings, might a new prototype of individual arise to stand before the failing species of man.
A New Sample Track from SERPENT OV OLD (2018 via Deathwave Nexion)
Many thanks to D.A.R.G. for the continued support and camaraderie, to S.R. Prozak and the Hessian stratosphere, and for their journalism, which has intersected with our work in the past, and with any luck will continue to in the future.
Extending further into the past, and lying in deeper recesses of mystery, are the cults and legends of the ancient Pelasgians. Their symbols, gods and myths included precede, and in a way bring forth the Hellenic , while remaining in a relative obscurity even when the cults were known to be active . Among these obscure cults was that of the Kábeiroi (a.k.a. Cabiri), a group of unknown but powerful beings tracing lineage to Rhea —The feminine Titan of Saturn — and to the vast Sea . (more…)