SERPENTINE PATH - Emanations
Having never heard of Serpentine Path before, I was surprised to learn that none of the musicians forming this quintet are unknown. Three of the members - the vocalist and the rhythm section - used to play in doom sludge metal band Unearthly Trance. One guitarist, Stephen Flam, even used to play in the seminal extreme doom metal band Winter, while the other guitarist, Tim Bagshaw, should be known to many as a founding member of Electric Wizard and Ramesses.
Those of you a little familiar with the doom metal genre will of course prick up their ears at the mere mention of Electric Wizard, but don’t expect any doped up stoner doom metal, because Serpentine Path have stripped their sludge/doom metal of any and all frills and have reduced the genre to something that reminds of the European sound of the mid-Eighties, in this case meaning Hellhammer and very early Celtic Frost.
While the first two songs, Essence Of Heresy and House Of Worship, are still moderately short, the following five tracks are running for over six minutes, with the closer Torment even making it to a majestic eight and half minutes. In the hands of lesser artists, this would hardly be spectacular, probably just another retro tour de force, but fortunately, the band from New York and New Jersey have been around long enough to know that even their minimalist approach can take advantage of occasional melodic touches, which in this case are the frequent melodic guitar leads that don’t really count as solos, as they don’t stand by themselves but rather accompany the rhythm section, adding a haunting sense of melancholy to the music. The rhythm section also doesn’t limit itself to just being the backbone. As a matter of fact, especially the bass guitar comes with a gnarly distorted sound that enhances the threatening nature of the performance. The vocals are harsh, low and perfectly fit the magma pace of these behemoth pieces of music.
Most of the songs dwell in the same nether regions of extreme dark and slow music, but one track manages to stand out. Disfigured Colossus had been pre-released as a single, and not only because its rather concise length of six minutes might not scare off the more adventurous radio stations. In fact, while dragging at the same snail pace as the other songs, this track comes with something like a memorable chorus that makes you want to sing along, in a very funereal way of course. It is also here where the parallels to Hellhammer are the strongest.
Emanations is already the second album by Serpentine Path, coming two years after their self-titled debut, and according to various opinions, the band has really improved since their beginnings. This kind of sludge/doom metal is far away from the more conventional melodic doom metal, and therefore comes also with much less pathos, which only speaks for the band. If you like your doom metal slow, primitive and infernal, you should definitely check out Emanations which will entertain you for forty-five hellish slo-mo minutes.