Draped in secret and mystery, little is actually known about Serpent’s Lair. Although, in this case, that doesn’t seem to be a gimmick. The band is simply all about the music. Hailing from Denmark, Serpent’s Lair previously released a demo in 2014 are now ready to unleash their debut LP, Circumambulating the Stillborn. The album is a mix of dissonant melody, atmosphere and chaotic swirling winds of black metal. Overall, the quality production and relentless tenacity make for an inspiring trip through the forest of modern black metal.
Serpent’s Lair are a black metal band that, like False and so many others, are not afraid of the long format. It seems evident that Serpent’s Lair know what it takes to hold a listener’s interest for that expanse of time. There are even examples, such as “Dwelling on the Threshold,” where the band completely separates a more atmospheric passage from the surrounding tracks. Thus, as the following track, “Devouring Wrathe,” opens in swirling chaos and cryptic vocals the flow is not disturbed. There is no need to press ‘next’ or skip over any of the tracks despite their length.
The most stark diversity on the album comes from the vocalist. At times, a gutteral expression spews forth over the chaotic instrumentation while, at other times, Aldrahn like shouts and pitched vocals create a sense of urgency surging the music forward. The vocalist also employs a more effectuated, over-driven quality at times which sits in stark contrast to the often sparse instrumentation accompanying this particular vocal affectation. While the vocal styles themselves are nothing new or groundbreaking, they are employed in such a manner as to keep the record entirely well balanced and exciting.
The guitars also run the gamut appropriately supporting the vocals. Mainly employing a ferocious and chaotic, treble-heavy black metal sound, the guitars do, at times, venture in more depth defying, thick patterns. The drums are cavernous with an excessive amount of reverb overlaying the snare during non-blastbeat situations. The result is to make the recording dark and suspicious despite its clarity and treble-laden tone. If there is a complaint to be had, the tight tuning of the snare is bordering on piccolo levels pitch. Not entirely appropriate given the undercutting, slightly thin, tone of the bass drum.
Circumambulating the Stillborn is a very enjoyable work. It’s not knocking down the walls to prove anything and it’s not taking black metal in a direction that makes fans of extreme metal nervous. Seven tracks in just over forty-three minutes throughout which fans of Dead in the Manger and Misþyrming will find long expanses to latch onto. It’s actually been a pretty fascinating year for black metal, one that will involve some digestion before all is packed away in preparation for 2016. Serpent’s Lair will certainly be listed on the pro’s column of the black metal review of 2015 but it’s it’s also not racing to the top lists for 2015. It’s just kind of there. Unoffensive in a way that it’s perfectly offensive, blasphemous and aggressive.
Circumambulating the Stillborn is available 11.10.2015 via Hellthrasher Records. For more information on Serpent’s Lair check out their Facebook page.
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