Serpentine path are a new force to be reckoned with in the doom scene. Featuring members of Unearthly Trance and one of the founding members of Electric Wizard, they are a doom super-group in all but name really.
After delivering a crushing debut album that earned them a cult following very quickly, they have returned with a fresh slice of pummelling filth in the form of “Emanations”.
Given that roster, if you are familiar with those bands then you probably have a pretty strong idea of what these guys sound like, and whilst you will be half right (slow, filthy and dark) they have managed to create a sound on this album that has its own identity and make it clear that they have no intention of living off of their respective reputations within the scene and that this is very much a new band in its own right.
It’s a strange sound for a doom album, It almost feels wrong to call it doom, because that will give you preconceptions of it being a narcotic induced slab of Sabbath worship, which this certainly is not.
The best way I can describe it is this, Imagine Autopsy playing covers of Eyehategod, and that will give some idea of what this sounds like.
At times it almost genuinely feels like an old school death metal album, but drawn out and drenched in thick sludgy tones, which for me makes this one of the more unique offerings I have come across in the doom scene for a long time, and is certainly a breath of fresh air from the run of the mill 70’s vibe that practically every other band that call themselves doom (with the exception of the mighty Conan) seems to be doing at the moment.
Despite drawing comparison to death metal, this is still very much a doom laden album, if you are expecting any blast beats or frantic head-banging tempos then you will be disappointed. This album operates almost exclusively at a slow, gut churning tempo, and on occasion just gets slower, but from the outset it creates this dark, dirty and generally depraved atmosphere about it which never lets up for the duration.
The production and execution of this complements the music brilliantly, the guitars and bass have plenty of crunch to the riffs and a nice mid tone warmth in the leads, the drums poke right through the mix and the grotesque vocals sit perfectly on top giving a raspy and visceral edge to the whole sound. It has plenty of bottom end to loosen your bowels if you crank it up but is not completely drenched in bass as is often the case with doom.
This mix gives it a refreshing sound where its pummelling and ballsy but you can actually hear exactly what’s going musically, a hard balance to get right without losing that filthy edge. I have not heard anyone manage this balance of clarity and nastiness as well as this since the first Iron Monkey album.
And with that in mind Iron Monkey is another good comparison to make here, it not that they sound hugely similar, but if you are a fan of I M then you will most certainly love this bands filthy and depraved approach to doom without question.
This album came as a pleasant surprise to me, I went into it expecting it to have the super-group syndrome of being a cut and paste collection of the best bits from the members former projects being rehashed as often happens, but instead this is a truly collaborative effort of an album that offers up its own sound and identity whilst still throwing in enough of the members signature styles to appeal to fans of their previous output.
So overall this a great album and will certainly be one of the highlights of any doom fans year.
They have proven with this album that the first offering was not merely just a bit of fun and they are growing into an increasingly individual band that is becoming much bigger than the sum of its parts.
(Mark Gleed 8/10)