Serpentcult – Raised By Wolves

The release of new sounds from Belgian band Serpentcult has been awaited with an intriguing and eager anticipation especially since the departure from the band of female vocalist Michelle Nocon in 2010. Now with the release of Raised By Wolves the wait is over and it is simply a revelation, a release that absorbs and consumes the senses with a soundscape that fires up imagery and emotions as it emerges and expands into view with great skill and intensity. The band has created not only an album of impressive quality and music but an avalanche of emotive sounds to probe, trigger and inspire feelings.

The origins of Ghent sludge-doomsters Serpentcult began in 1998 in the shape of Thee Plague Of Gentlemen. That band gained a cult following but after the release of their only full length album Primula Pestis in 2006 the band disbanded due to the arrest of one of its members. 2007 saw the remaining trio of guitarist Frédéric Caure, bassist Steven Van Cauwenbergh and drummer Frederik ‘Cozy’ Cosemans emerge in the guise of Serpentcult, a name originally intended for the second album by Thee Plague Of Gentlemen, with the added vocal talent of Nocon. The excellent blend of female vocals and their formidable doom sound revealed with their debut EP Trident Nor Fire, made a quick and forceful mark with people. The ever increasing eagerness for their sounds led to the release of the album Weight Of Light through Rise Above Records in 2008 but the leaving of Nocon left a question of what next. A trio once more, the guys decided to carry on as a three piece “…with a few other musicians, who will join us in the realization and creation of our visions and music. These members will be very close to the band, but will not be permanent Serpentcult members.”

   Raised By Wolves is the remarkable proof that they do not need any one else in the core of the band. The album running almost forty minutes across four tracks is a powerful journey of predominantly instrumental and atmospheric lingering music. Individually the tracks are immense and dramatic but as a whole the album becomes an even deeper and emotional experience that does more than just please the ear.

The title track opens up the album with the stormy backdrop of incessant rain as resourceful and searching guitar sounds explore. It is not long before a heavier intimidating essence joins the piece as the desperate sounds of man and a neatly blended harmony of vocals bring more strong feelings to the track. The flow of the track is engagingly ponderous but with a darker intent driving it on fuelling visions of a place that suggests either nightmares or mesmeric dreams. The sound is oppressive but carries a sense of hope within its bludgeoning wall of noise.

The unrelenting menace of the storm emerges again to end the opener and lead in the instrumental ‘Crippled and Frozen’. Smothering and ambient its devastating intent consumes within the heavy compelling riffs and pulsating rhythms. Dark and nasty, the drone that spines the track weighs down heavily whilst laying a groove that beckons just as equally.

Longing for Hyperborea’ builds a gripping and imposing wave of sound to immerse into. The track’s and the whole album’s intention is to involve, enthral, and take the listener on an odyssey of musical textures and terrains that inspire thought and emotion, something the band achieves tenfold.

Final track ‘Growth of the Soil’ is a more straight forward sludge/doom style, though the term ‘straight forward’ and Serpentcult will probably never actually be accurate together. It strokes, stalks and feasts with a black heart and an unrelenting eagerness, a spawn of the darkest corners.

Raised By Wolves is a standard bearer for dark, heavy and emotively creative music. Serpentcult may have had us waiting to find out what was next but the time was well worth giving as the resulting release is an epic on all levels.

RingMaster 01/10/2011

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Lucky Thir13n – March Of The Young

With a fresh attitude and equally vibrant sound Lucky Thir13n step out from their homeland of Greece to release their debut album March Of The Young. The quartet from Thessaloniki have already won over their Greek fans with their classic/melodic hard rock sound earning impressive reviews for their EP Far From Home, unplugged radio show appearances, and their live shows and festival appearances. Now with March Of The Young the young band look to impress further afield and with deeper effect.

The music is firmly for fans of traditional and modern hard rock though there are moments that invite fans from other genres to take a listen. The album is bursting with strong melodies and harmonies and favoured catchy and engaging guitar hooks over thrusting and incessant riffs, though again there are parts where the band also employs a little force into their attack. The band consisting of Elias Elias (lead vocals, rhythm guitars), Nash (lead guitars), Alex “Tze” (bass), and Tsaky Dee (drums) sound confident in their ability and songwriting skills with the album giving no evidence to dispute that and though it is not without flaws many are down to personal taste on the type of the music they play rather than any actual ingredients within it.

For the hard rock fans tracks like the opener ‘Alibi’ with an intriguing orchestral like intro and strong guitars throughout, the inviting catchiness and firmness of ‘Feels Like Coming Home’, and the melodic hooks of ‘Get In My Way’ make a satisfying start to the album. Using classic sounds and hard rock flavours mixed with a modern feel they make a strong invitation to discover more.  

Admittedly if you are not really into the hard rock sound the songs might not trigger much more than an appreciative nod but ‘Rivers Run Dry’ is the first track to show a variation from other areas and another aspect to the band. Featuring the guest vocals of Invoker (Dimlight) the track hits immediately with a death metal like vocal and force before merging into a firmer and direct hard rock sound. For those with a penchant for harsher noises it is a very agreeable track and gives an extra intrigue to the band than maybe the previous songs.

That also applies to the other two standout tracks on the album in ‘Forever Free (March Of The Young)’ and ‘Yeah, I Want It’. Loaded with a pop punk/punk  essence and urgency, the songs are two striking slices of good lively rock ‘n’ roll and again suggest the band are stronger when bringing varied influences into their core sound.

There is the almost obligatory anthemic track in ‘R’n’R’ and features Vivian (Realiez) and DJ Space (S.M.A).  Often these easy songs are obvious, lazy and formulaic but Lucky Thir13n infuses theirs with a youthful fun that is hard not to take a shine to it.

Mastered by Bruno Ravel (Danger Danger) the album is clean with a production that lets the music and members reveal ability and passion. The one element that did not work as well as expected was the vocals of Elias. In the pacey parts and the group harmonies he flows very well and is strong but there is an inconsistency to his voice that shows in the slower and parts more focused on his delivery. It is not enough to drive one away from the release but there is room for improvement for sure.

March Of The Young is a good album that hard rock fans will certainly find lots to enjoy and get from, for those not so enamoured with the genre there are a few tracks to make it worth an investigation but not really anything to fully convert them to the bands rock sound. The album also shows and suggests great promise for the future sounds of Lucky Thir13n and for the bands rise in popularity.

RingMaster 01/10/2011

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