Review: Serpentent ‘Ancient Tomes, Volume I: Mother Of Light’

Ancient Tomes, Volume I: Mother Of Light, the debut album by Serpentent, has just been released through Svart Records, and should hopefully see the blossoming of a truly wondrous future indeed.

As I can imagine, mostly, it’s a name you’ve never heard of before. It is, however, a name you will probably get used to seeing in the press over the next few months, and quite rightly so. Just for context, Serpentent is actually the creation of a truly incredible artist, not only in music, but also in the visual arts too, and that artists name is Anne K. O’Neill. She’s not only has created one of the most beautiful dark wave folk albums, but also has a lavish portfolio of photographs, illustrations, and paintings, which are absolutely incredible to look at.

Review: Serpentent 'Ancient Tomes, Volume I: Mother Of Light'

Serpentent, Ancient Tomes, Volume I: Mother Of Light, in all its majesty, and I don’t use that word lightly, Majesty. Majesty, because, like other similar artists who usually appear in the dark folk bracket, the thing that I feel elevates this work is the fact that it feels far more magical, as well as spiritual.

Following in the same footsteps as the likes of Chelsea Wolfe, Darkher, and to some extent Lisa Gerrard, Serpentent mixes ethereal vocal passages, with cathartic musical flourishes, to create truly otherworldly landscapes aurally. At times quite hard to endure, due to the intensity of the music, the paralleled softer, somewhat more somber sections perfectly compliment the darker moments, and the power play of the two is a wonder to behold.

Over the course of the nine tracks of Ancient Tomes… the entwining almost feels primal. The merging is like that of two snakes, wrapping around each other. A dark and a light, the ying with the yang, if you will. Featuring an ensemble of musicians, covering everything from the standard drum, guitar, and bass arrangement to cello and flute, the scale of the dynamics cannot be underplayed at all.

Opening with The Descent, and an eloquent acoustic guitar monologue, with occasional percussion, it’s instantly engaging. It glides its way through, as if being blown along on the breeze. Light and airy, I’m instantly spellbound.

The track Ancient Tomes capitalises on The Descent’s opening, and when O’Neill’s vocal rolls in, its sublime. This is where I draw my parallels with Chelsea Wolfe. It reminds me of the more sombre Chelsea moments, but actually, for me, that only helps to completely capture my soul. Its dark majesty stops me in my tracks, and I sit back, and fully submerge myself into the world of Serpentent. The otherworldly nature of the piece is captivating, and it sets my interest alight, wanting to see what comes next.

Its dark majesty stops me in my tracks, and I sit back, and fully submerge myself into the world of Serpentent…

Winding, track three, seals the deal. By this point, I need no convincing, what I am witnessing is something which is going to stay with me forever more. The hypnotic blend of dark ambience, and sultry ethereal vocal, two of my checklist of things I adore in music, are both present, and to even think about this being a debut release is absolutely crazy. Where has Serpentent been, and why have they only appeared now? Burning questions, which I will probably never know the answers to. Again, my senses are pinged by a sense of Chelsea Wolfe, but also too, to one of my personal favourite artists, A.A. Williams. The way the piece is played, especially the vocal delivery, has me imagining those parallels too.

Sonette an Orpheus:IV, the forth piece, completely changes things up. After an opening monologue, all sorts of instrumentation I was not expecting to hear, ushers in the musical part of the piece. This is a darker affair, and the mood drops. A sense of intensity, not seen before on the album, sweeps in, and pulls the tone down. Brooding and intoxicating, it’s dark majesty truly is a wonder to hear.

By the time track seven, Mother Of Light, enters, the play of light and dark over the entire album is apparent. With the dark intensity never far away, on this track, I notice the inclusion of a haunting cello performance, which I feel needs to be embraced. Under the moniker Kakophonix, Chris Edward Brown plays a truly magical piece, which is a pleasure to hear.

By the time Rise & Fall opens to conclude the album, I’m drawn back to those initial Chelsea Wolfe vibes, but this is so much more than just an ‘ode to’ piece for me. While I draw my comparisons, I also take so much more from this whole body of work. As dark and menacing as it is, it also shows a restraint which is bliss to feel. As it rolls through, it’s a truly cathartic experience indeed, and as it concludes there’s one last sense of an apocalyptically cathartic finale.

In conclusion, while this album, and lots of its reviews, will all draw the same ‘for fans of….’ And the names Chelsea Wolfe, Emma Ruth Rundle, and the ilk, I feel this album is much more than just another of that style. Ancient Tomes… is like a warm hug to calm the soul, catharsis at a base level that not many can truly capture in the music they make. Mark my words, hear my voice, this is the start of something truly magical, come on in, the waters perfect…

Label: Svart Records
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Lee Beamish