Serpentine Path – Serpentine Path
Sometimes I hate the hype machine. If I had a dollar for every time I bought into something that sounded great on paper and ended up being a mega-letdown, I wouldn’t just be regular rich. I’d be Romney rich. Nowhere else is this more prevalent than when it comes to supergroups. For every Cream there’s a Zwan; for every Traveling Wilburys an Audioslave. Supergroups are always a mixed bag, because you never really know if you’re going to get the magnificent collaboration you’ve always dreamed about – it’s too often that the group will be torn apart in the Battle of the Egos that inevitably results from getting all these big stars in one place (chance of such an event is due to increase by at least 50% if Billy Corgan is involved). But when a supergroup holds up to the hype and emerges as the landmark recording it was billed to be, it is a truly beautiful thing. That brings me to the new recording from Serpentine Path, a collaboration between the members of the defunct Brooklyn doom institution Unearthly Trance with Tim Bagshaw, guitarist of misanthropes-general Ramesses and bassist on the landmark early recordings of Electric Wizard. When I first heard the news of this new partnership, I immediately had to change my pants. And upon listening to the album, I can confirm that it’s not a magnificent landmark of the genre due to be worshiped for years to come, but it’s pretty fuckin’ sick nonetheless.
The disparate styles of Ramesses and Unearthly Trance are a perfect match of angular, chromatic riffs and overwhelming bleakness, so I was fairly certain that this project would be well-executed from the outset. The record alternates between a glacially monolithic dirge like “Beyond the Dawn of Time” or “Only a Monolith Remains” that crushes your skull and leaves you to rot before lurching into a head-nodding groove like on “Aphelion” that rocks and rolls like the best of Ramesses’ work. This is one of the most well-executed doom records I’ve heard in a long time, and the only real fault I can find with it is that it sounds far too much like the work that both parties have already distinguished themselves on. There’s the mammoth invisible-orange moments augmented by creepy film samples that defined Unearthly Trance, and there’s the lurching chromaticisms of Ramesses that just ache for the black masses they were soundtracked for. It’s a marriage made in Hell, to be sure; my only complaint is that it can be a bit indistinguishable from where it draws its influences. But it’s so well-executed that I honestly don’t give a shit. It’s nothing new, to be sure, but it’s done so well that even the most seasoned doomer won’t really care.
In the time since the album, it seems that this already overpowered supergroup has been joined by Winter’s own Stephen Flam, and I could not be more excited. Moments on the album certainly evoke the bleakness of the legendary Into Darkness, but I’m not sure if Serpentine Path should bring in yet another legend of doom metal to their fold. Not for their own stability, mind you, but for the stability of the universe. As much as I hate the hype machine, if this first offering from Serpentine Path is anything to go off of, I’m pretty sure that the next album from these guys is going to destabilize the Earth’s orbit. At least.
A perfect ear for evil-sounding riffs puts this in the running for Best Doom of 2012.
Indistinguishable from Unearthly Trance and Ramesses. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.