Serpent Venom is a band I have been going on about for a while since I saw them at this very venue for their debut gig. There is just something about them, the doom laden guitar work, with many ‘trills’ and all (sorry – a term used by guitar players!) gets the most from the Orange amps via an SG guitar courtesy of guitarist Pete during ‘Four Walls of Solitude’. Gaz on Vocals (whom used to front SLOTH) is a great front man, although the music is slow, his movement never stops along with some excellent vocal lines that sometimes remind me of Dan from Count Raven or Christian Lindersson (Lord Vicar and Terra Firma). One thing that struck me tonight that I never really noticed before was the quality of the drumming from Paul. To have such a range and variation within the slow-tempo presentation is simply wonderful and I found myself concentrating on what the drums were doing for the majority of their set. I think they only played 3 songs (‘Under the Compass’, The Outsider’ and the aforementioned track) and they were on for a good 30-40 minutes. These chaps are certainly a band to watch in the coming months and, to me, they are one of the greatest finds of recent times. Doomed perfection!
It is great to see some bands getting back to the lost art of album-art design and packaging rather than simply putting their CD inside a regular plastic-case with a standard booklet. It really makes the release a 'special purchase' to value forever and it also looks great on your bookshelf.
Most doomsters would know by now that Serpent Venom play doom-metal mixed with seventies rock, nothing new there and lets face it, the style is getting very clichéd and predictable right now but when its done right, it is some of the most memorable and timeless music currently out there in the scene. Did I mention this is real heavy ? Well of course it is, they blend Sabbathian riffs with modern trad-doom à la Candlemass and inject some Black Widow occult vibes and when you listen to this band, you can't help but think of bearded dudes in flared pants and paisley shirts. Yes, it has some real hippie-rock tendencies but this is still heavier than most other retro-style bands that are currently riding the vintage-rock bandwagon. The album starts with the title-track and the waves of sound dished out by the vintage sounding mellotron gives you a clue as to where this is going. It soon explodes into a fury of thunderous guitar and bass grooves and Sabbathy doomy riffage. The guitar work is very much in the style of Tony Iommi but rather than simply recycling his techniques, they breathe some fresh-air in this style of playing. I love Iommi's guitar techniques to this day, the vibrato still gives me the chills but it is overused and abused by many bands but Serpent Venom are one band breathing some new life into it and it is exciting to hear what they do with it.
Most of the following tracks don't offer anything different from what you hear in the opening track but it is all killer riffs and grooves. 'Blood of Serpents', 'Four Walls of Solitude', 'Conjuration', 'Under the Compass,' 'Devilshire,' and 'The Outsider' all follow the same formula and rather than one or more tracks standing out, it is passages within the songs that provide the highlights here. To be quite honest, some of the songs seem too long considering they all have the same hooks and grooves but luckily theses hooks and grooves are so good, you want to hear them again any way. It is interesting that this album comes out at the same time that a couple of other bands are releasing similar types of albums, Doomraiser's 'Mountains Of Madness' being the main one in my mind so you can't help but sit them side by side and compare and the truth is Serpent Venom have some stiff competition to deal with. But to be fair, they deserve to be judge on their own merits and in that light, 'Carnal Altar' is a great album. The musicianship is flawless and awe-inspiring at times and I am yet to read another review for this album but I am sure many others will be saying the same thing once they hear this. Certainly don't expect a diverse album and don't expect anything too original either but be prepared for one solid hour or so of classic doomy grooves and mesmerizing atmosphere. Serpent Venom have indeed arrived, buy it.