Deadlight Entertainment, March 2014
The main success of Witchthroat’s Serpent’s self-titled doom debut lies in the contrast between the raw vocals and the fuzzy guitars, both of which are produced by Frederik Bolzann (also of black metal band Davulia).
Sounding like a maniacally angry Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Bolzann’s raw, troubled pitch rises high over the low-end fuzz-fest that he creates in cahoots with bass player Lo Klav. On occasion, Klav’s four-stringed WMD is so low that it’s barely audible.
Following a rather uninspiring, mood-setting opening instrumental, the French band’s full-length bow begins in earnest with the oddly-titled ‘Have You Never Seen The Substitute’. This is thoroughly enjoyable down-tuned, stoner-infused, sludgy doom, with Bolzann’s anguished hollering prominent over bright and lively drumming, courtesy of the equally-oddly-titled Niko Lass.
The Toulouse-based threesome are perhaps over-reliant on Bolzann’s distinctive voice, and, when the singing stops, the songs can start to feel a little uneventful. For example, the final two tracks – ‘Ranks Up There With The Devil’ and ‘Priestess Of Old Ghosts’ – fall somewhere between ‘hypnotising’ and ‘monotonous’, even despite Bolzann’s best efforts. These songs are loud, heavy and fuzzed off their tits, but just not very interesting. An all-too-familiar story within the genre.
When they put all of their ingredients together, however, the Witchthroat Serpent sound can be a heady mix, reminiscent of Electric Wizard. The standout track ‘Serpenta Ritual’ cleverly twists some standard stoner-doom riffage and shows encouraging signs of adventure and musical exploration, while ‘The Next Black Moon’ rides on an irresistible wave of fuzzy groove and is sure to get your head nodding with approval.
There is no doubt that this French band, which was formed in 2011, can create some seriously muscular stoner mayhem at times, and they are capable of coming up with some winning grooves amid the slow, plodding misery. But the moments of Gallic genius are too few and far between to really stand out from the crowd.