When you hear of a new band that unites Unearthly Trance with Tim Bagshaw of Electric Wizard and Ramesses fame, expectations for the material are about as high as they could be. The pedigree suggests that one should expect something of supreme heaviness and the pinnacle of all that is doom (with more than a passing nod to death metal). And yet the combination of musicians so brilliant on their own does not always add up to being more than the sum of its parts – musical history has been littered with lackluster “collaboration” albums and “supergroups”, although I hasten to add that The Serpentine Path is neither of these things. And so it is with relief and delight that I report to you that the two songs on this first 7” are absolutely brilliant.
Unearthly Trance have been moving steadily in a more death metal direction with every album and frankly more to my liking in the process – the last album was nothing short of a masterpiece. Ramesses not only had Bagshaw switching from 4 strings to 6, but saw an equally death-metal influenced sound emerging from his playing. Therefore, with Bagshaw exclusively handling guitar duties, it isn’t surprising that the sounds of this devastatingly heavy EP fall pretty firmly into the death-doom camp. The easiest comparisons fall with the likes of “To Mega Therion” era Celtic Frost and the mighty Winter, the latter particularly where the drumming is concerned. Primal and pounding, this is sparse doom/death drumming at its finest – sounds easy, but it fucking isn’t!
Both vocals and guitars are drenched in reverb, but the psychedelic elements which take this release into the realm of the superlative lie in the progressive tempo changes. For example, “Depravity” alternates between an absolute crawl and a mid-paced ascension up the fretboard which sends shivers up the spine, the end of “Erebus” does much the same. And yet, lest we forget, the doom element is there, plain as day; the riff at the start of the song “Erebus” sounds almost like one of Dave Chandler’s slower dirges, and the late Armando Acosta’s V-beat is constantly brought to mind, as Lipynsky’s awe-inspiring growl chants tales of scriptures and darkness. Curious though I am, I almost want the lyrics to remain unpublished, they seem so much more menacing as half-heard words.
I can confidently say this is one of the best debuts I’ve heard this year – top notch musicianship, sounds like it was recorded in a cavern. I for one can’t wait for a full-length and (pretty please…) a tour. Absolutely wipes the floor with just about any band trying to sound dark and heavy of late – a lesson in darkness and riffs. RISE!
Scribed by: Saúl Do Caixão