Relapse Records (27 May 2014)
Rarely is such nastiness so pleasurable. New York’s Serpentine Path create high-energy, low-wastage death-doom. There is a sludgy element but this is purposeful, driven and controlled. The songs may be desperately slow, unbearably bleak and rumbling but they are also compact, muscular and hard-hitting. This is a celebration of misery pared down to its essential core, and indulgence is not tolerated.
There are reflections of Cathedral’s early exasperation, such as on the track ‘Treacherous Waters’ – an instant favourite – while songs such as ‘Disfigured Colossus’ bear some of the hallmarks of Celtic Frost or Cerebral Fix in their memorable snarl, and ‘Claws’ could come direct from Paradise Lost’s classic debut album.
Serpentine Path have improved since their exciting self-titled debut album, and have added a new guitarist in Stephen Flam. This time out, the guitars are still as heavy as hell, but they retain a melodic delicacy when called upon – this is a dark and brutal album with a faint glimmer of beauty buried deep down. A few more guitar solos might add to this sense of tantalisingly hidden hope, because when they come they are inventive and enlightening, adding a kind of terrible happiness amid the horror. The vocals are a kind of depressed roar, slightly breathless, laced with poison. As with the guitars, a little more variety in the delivery would add even more texture.
Serpentine Path demonstrate those timeless staples of heavy metal – immense riffs and overflowing energy, bordering on uncontrolled rage. And behind the simple surface, there is a great depth to the band’s sound, and to the structures of the songs that they create. Occasionally, the band rely a little too heavily on repetition, rather than building the songs to their maximum potential.
‘Emanations’ consists of seven meaty tracks and weighs in at around 45 minutes, and the album flies by – which has got to be a good sign. There are subtle changes of mood and tempo throughout, which serve to keep things interesting and help the listener avoid falling into a bottomless pit of woe. Misery experts Serpentine Path have delivered another powerful and intense death-doom opus that fans of the genre should definitely check out.