‘Of Things Seen And Unseen’
The Church Within Records (27 June 2014)
Serpent Venom’s eagerly-awaited second album begins like a cross between ‘Gothic’-era Paradise Lost and misery-mongers Pallbearer, and while this album does not quite reach those lofty heights, it is clear that this UK band have brought a quality offering to the altar of doom. Following 2011’s enormously encouraging ‘Carnal Altar’ album, Serpent Venom had a burden of expectation to live up to, and they’ve delivered.
There are some fantastic songs on this follow-up. ‘Let Them Starve’, for example, is a breathless doom epic with a galloping uptempo finale. Demonstrating the band’s growing sophistication, this track is trimmed and edited down to the bare minimum and is more effective for its comparative brevity. The album closer, ‘Burning Free’, starts inauspiciously but then launches into a doom explosion, an original, compelling song that takes the band’s trad roots and weaves them into new forms – earthy, deep, tortured. Another song, ‘Death Throes At Dawn’, shows a band in fine fettle playing very simple but very effective heavy doom metal, a song in which things just click into place.
Even when one of Serpent Venom’s enormous riffs might seem ordinary at first, such as on ‘The Lords of Life’, the band manages to make it their own, infusing what might have been overly-familiar with a menacing heaviness and special kind of melodic misery. It doesn’t always work out that way, though, and ‘Pilgrims Of The Sun’ is a drawn-our dirge that does little to showcase the band’s creativity. There are traces of fellow Brits Witchsorrow, particularly on the song ‘Sorrow’s Bastard’, but Serpent Venom seem to have a stronger leaning towards angrier, stomping riffs. In the middle of it all, ‘I Awake’ is a flowery little interjection, an acoustic daydream that interrupts the flow of horror for a fleeting moment.
Garry Ricketts’s almost-clean voice lack a little depth and is sometimes stretched, although what his delivery misses in pure accuracy, he more than makes up for in his phrasing, rhythm and interesting patterns. He certainly works hard, and his pleasingly-crafted melodies balance perfectly against the backdrop of seething guitars, provided by Roland Scriver (who replaced Pete Fox) and bass player Nick Davies.
Recorded at Skyhammer Studio last October with Chris Fielding (Electric Wizard, Conan), this is a solid and intriguing follow-up to ‘Carnal Altar’. ‘Of Things Seen And Unseen’ sees Serpent Venom enter a new stage in their musical progression, creating deeply personal, immense and traditional doom metal with a deadly bite.