Album Review: Serpent Corpse - Blood Sabbath
Reviewed by Sam Jones
I always smile when I see a new or upcoming band come out of Quebec, Canada. The Quebec extreme metal scene has jettisoned so many great bands like Outre-Tombe, Sedimentum and Chthe’ilist, and now we get to add Serpent Corpse to that illustrious repertoire. Formed in 2020 right at the height of the Pandemic, Serpent Corpse style themselves as a death metal act that fuses punk sensibilities into their sound, first unveiling their potential in a 2021 Demo. But other than that, this is really the first true insight into the band’s prospects, pinning Blood Sabbath, their first full length release, for an early July release window and through Temple Of Mystery Records no less. I was rather curious to see what this Quebec extreme metal act could offer and so, delved within to see what the band were all about.
Well, isn’t this one of the most commanding introductions I’ve heard in some time? A vast and cavernous bass tone underlies the opening seconds to this record, all the while a grim aesthetic belies this first track. I may prefer albums to just get right into the action but this is one effective way at prepping an audience for the onslaught to come. This is soon followed by the band’s first full performance on this record and it’s abundantly clear the band love old school death metal, so much so that their ambience and mixing alike has been tweaked to craft that retro, old school effect. The band have thrown down all walls that could bar their sound within limits, and thus Blood Sabbath harnesses a scale grander and wider than contemporary, modern death metal acts would otherwise sport. The vocals and instrumentation equally roar into the empty space freed up for the record, and so the assault that would otherwise be on our senses is reduced resulting in an easier time digesting their searing attack on us.
The drums are great here and I found them to be implemented effectively, and more so than your rudimentary performance too. Once you get the idea that Serpent Corose are a band worshipping old school death metal, the more sense their drums make for the complete absence of blast beats enables us to delve deeper and further into the band’s songwriting, since the band opt not to devastate our sense with any singular element that could potentially steer our attention from the complete canvas if you will. Yet, while the band choose to keep their drumming grounded, that doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to fully utilise them for maximum impact. Whether it’s using the drums to strike quickly and powerfully upon taut skins, or let loose a crashing cymbal, and methodical tom-tom strikes, the drums are always doing something to keep us engaged, and the songwriting continuously interesting.
But it’s in the riffs the magic that is Blood Sabbath can be discovered. In absolute lieu of carefully managed and controlled guitar tones, Serpent Corpse allow their riffs to be as vicious and untethered by will as they could ever be. That aforementioned capacity to let instrumentation and vocals roar into the distance only complements the guitar work, for when the intensity climbs so too does the ferocity by which the riffs are hurtling towards us. One riff bleeds into the next and as the band regulate speed pending on the songwriting’s requirements from the band, you get this maelstrom effect where it’s impossible not to get caught up within the malice and surge this storm is bringing. Additionally, the riffs aren’t slammed in your face; they’ve been brought back a touch in the mix so they work alongside the bass and drums to craft this cacophonous aesthetic.
I especially appreciate how Serpent Corpse have a really strong grasp on their pacing. The band’s general prerogative for this record is speed, as one would naturally presume from such a sound. At a little under forty minutes, the band aren’t looking to hang around and yet throughout the track running are a handful of longer pieces to keep us going. Now, even throughout the regular tracks, the band aren’t always destroying us at point blank range, for their speed may be great yet the pace by which they’re delivering g their songwriting at is surprisingly well controlled, even as they relinquish such control from their instrumental performance. You’ll get instances where their songwriting dishes out vast swathes of intensities during a track’s premier moments, but also these smaller moments where the band’s attack maintains its onslaught but the pace is subtly brought to heel. This is especially apparent during the longer pieces where the band couldn’t possibly go breakneck for six to seven minutes apiece. This is tasty old school death metal played and written with brains behind it, for Serpent Corpse understand the exemplar extreme metal acts often balanced their brutality with controlled pacing.
In conclusion, Blood Sabbath is an exquisite ride from start to finish. I came away from this record deeply satisfied with what I received, for there is much more hiding inside this album than one would initially presume, and for a debut full length work at that as well. From one vantage point, Serpent Corpse could be deemed a one-trick pony for Blood Sabbath ends in precisely the same manner that it began with. Yet, in spite of this seeming lack of variety, this is plenty to keep us engaged with as the album moves from track to track with plenty of variety to boot too. The band may possess a love for all things old school in death metal but we mustn’t mistake this for an absence of identity either, for Serpent Corpse certainly boast their own and they’re proud to display it. I thoroughly enjoyed this album and it’s a bonafide recommendation for anyone seeking quality works of death metal in the vain of 90s death metal.