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.