Sunday, January 05, 2014

Serpent-Possessed by Night

High Roller Records

It's the end of summer in Leipzig, Germany. The year is 2011. Out of the ashes of what was once Pace Of Hearse comes a N.W.O.B.H.M.-obsessed two-piece band called Serpent. Featuring members Vent (guitars/bass) and Tongue (drums/vocals), and (specifically) drawing their sounds off all things Brian Ross apparently (Satan and early Blitzkrieg), the band soon realizes they are onto something and that "something" needs to be put to tape! We fast-forward to July of 2012 and Serpent's 5-track, self-released demo, "Possessed by Night", is released on tape. Limited to a mere 150 copies, which would prove to be far too little an amount for a release like this, it contained numbers like "Scream for Revenge" and "Midnight Murder". It also featured guest musicians such as Wünsche (former bass player from German doom metal outfit Black Salvation who provides additional vocals on "Satan's Soldiers of Heavy Metal") and Pline (backing vocals on the title cut) and sported the picture below as far as original artwork.

All of which brings us to the here and now and this re-release of Serpent's "Possessed by Night". In a little less then one week (January 10th, 2014 to be precise) High Roller Records will issue this one-time demo on transparent clear vinyl and black vinyl. The re-release will come with a heavy cardboard cover and lyric sheet as well as three additional numbers in the form of "Neverending Story", "The Stranger" and
"Heavy Metal Ears". That last number, "Heavy Metal Ears", is a Picture* cover although it sounds more like something you'd expect from a band that lives, breathes and sleeps all things N.W.O.B.H.M! To be fair to Serpent (or at least guitarist/bassist Vent) they (Vent and Tongue) see themselves as being more then just a band that loves British metal. According to Vent there's more to the story. "Well, denying the influence of the N.W.O.B.H.M. on Serpent's music wouldn't make any sense, would it?" says Vent. "Especially Satan was one of the best bands of the entire movement. They stood for everything we want to achieve with Serpent, writing dark and raw traditional heavy metal songs of the highest possible quality. But we have influences outside the N.W.O.B.H.M. also. There are no stylistic limits to what spurs our creativity. There are countless influences. Serpent is not out to copy anybody. But I can give you a very rough idea of what we're all about: Take Savage's rock sensitivity and mix it up with Legend's bluesy groove feel performed with the raw edge of a band like Retrosatan and some second wave Black Metal. That's roughly how we want Serpent to sound." Fair enough. Don't let that "second wave Black Metal" scare you off though. About the closest this two-piece band gets to black metal is lyrically seeing as some songs deal with "magic, mythology and religion". Those would seem to be "Midnight Murder",  "The Stranger" and "Satan's Soldiers of Heavy Metal" although Vent does note "We are no members of any organized movement whatsoever. We are true scholars. Writing about the supernatural has unfortunately become such a trend in today's scene. Serpent does not want to have anything to do with that at all. Of course, occult symbols always look mysterious but I miss people researching the true meanings of those symbols. Occult Rock might be the trendy thing at the moment but that's not what Serpent is all about.". Again, fair enough. So, what does it all mean then? What does a release like this one have to offer you and I?  Heavy metal. Yes, just "heavy metal". But there's nothing wrong with that right? Not o me. While the band might not be breaking any new ground music-wise, which at this point in the history of heavy metal is no longer much of an issue if you really think about it, a release like this one will still go a long way towards reaffirming the notion that there is still more to be discovered and enjoyed by heavy metal purists. And the thing is at it's core, with all of the varies layers torn off of it so that it can be fully exposed in the sunlight for what it truly is, "Possessed by Night" comes off as a release by heavy metal purists for heavy metal purists! And, as good as it is, this is still a pretty much a demo so the potential for further greatness seems legit. While it's so far just Vent and Tongue the band does supplement it's sound on the live stage with guests Kadenic on bass and Apophys on rhythm guitar. Along with a rotating  series of drummers Serpent has managed to turn what could mostly be seen as a studio-project into a full-fledged band with the long-term payoff looking quite promising! For now though this LP is a must pick-up for lovers of real heavy metal!

*Dutch heavy metal act Picture released several classics during their early years together. Their first three albums are considered landmarks achievements in the field of Dutch heavy metal. While their forth studio-album, "Eternal Dark", only gathers so-so reviews I personally love it and consider it every bit as important a release in regards to Picture's greatest albums (although I would admittedly rank it below "Heavy Metal Ears" and "Diamond Dreamer"). You can read more about Picture at the link that follows where I reviewed their last album, "Warhorse". 

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