Originally released late last year as a limited edition cassette on rising Dutch DIY tape label Tartarus Records, this single/EP from Ortega (who are themselves a rising Dutch doom band) is now being issued on vinyl, courtesy of Narshardaa Records. The band, who have made quite a name for themselves in their native Holland and across mainland Europe by regularly touring and off the back of their previous releases A Flame Never Rises on Its Own and 1634 have now released their most ambitious work yet with “The Serpent Stirs” – a 19 minute epic that brings together the slovenly pace of doom, the muddy guitars of sludge and some progressive, psychedelic lead guitar work, decorated with Richard Postma’s torturous howl.
In terms of length this would probably be classified as an EP although by virtue of the fact that “The Serpent Stirs” is one lumbering sea-monster of a tune this could also be classified as their latest “single.” Whatever it is, it’s a majestic work – progressive, elegantly constructed and ultimately Ouroboros-like in its circularity. Like the ominous serpents that grace the vinyl jacket, the twin guitars of Postma and Alex Loots intertwine and weave, alternately pensive and ferocious whilst Postma chews the scenery and spews it out in the venomous fashion we’ve come to expect from the frontman. All the while, the dynamic rhythm section, drummer Sven Jurgens’ and bass player Frank de Boer, manage to keep the track sounding grounded and hefty, whilst also creating a sense of space in a track where it feels like you might eventually suffocate by dramatically pausing or missing occasional beats. The song brings to mind the likes of Neurosis, Yob, Tool and even some of Boris’ slower, moodier compositions.
When I say that the song is Ouroboros-like, it’s not just a way of ham-fisting another snake pun into this review – I mean that the song manages to come full circle on itself, starting and ending on a similar note whilst having covered a fair amount of ground in between. With “The Serpent Stirs”, Ortega have raised their already-high standards and released their most impressive work in the process.
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin