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Shrine of the Serpent - Entropic Disillusion

Shrine of the Serpent
Entropic Disillusion
by Martin Knap at 30 April 2018, 12:41 PM

What is the key to success when it comes to Funeral Doom, or similar fringe offshoots of Doom Metal like Death/Doom, Sludge/Doom etc., genres that are marked by repetition, bleakness, monotony? Take bands that really stand out and look what makes them interesting to listeners, who willingly let their wretched souls be crushed under avalanches of sorrow and misery. Bands like BELL WITCH or MOURNFUL CONGREGATION weave interesting guitar or vocal melodies and atmospherics into their composition, ESOTERIC masterfully layer instruments and vocals and build up tension to insane levels. SHAPE OF DESPAIR make music that is carried by painfully beautiful melodies and harmonies and lush synths, showing that the genre doesn’t have to be defined only by crushing heaviness and suffocating atmosphere. Then there are bands that can sound outright mysterious and freaky, like the Japanese funeral doom band BEGRÄBNIS, whose music sounds like a dark ritual.

The trio SHRINE OF THE SERPENT from Oregon choose a more raw approach - no synths, no chanting, no layering of guitars and vocals, just pure riffage, interrupted only by acoustic or ambient interludes. In other words, expect something closer to PRIMITIVE MAN (with less piss and vinegar) than to the last BELL WITCH album. The bleak acoustic intro for the instrumental song “Descend into Dusk” sets the tone for the album. All that I can say about it is that the riffs are good, but the song has very little development and nothing in terms of melody or harmony that would break the monotony of the repeating riffs. Things get more interesting when the vocals come in - but not by much. “Hailing the Enshrined” has a long atmospheric intro, and then there are monotonous, plodding sections of different riffs played over and over, with one “bridge” in the latter half.

Some songs here like “Hope’s Aspiration” and “Epoch of Annihilation” have some groovy parts and parts that are straight Death Metal. These bring much needed variety to the compositions, I find the songs that are carried only by slow, heavy doom riffs the most boring. My favorite song here is “Epoch of Annihilation”. After a slow start, that is not all too uninteresting we get some groovy Stoner/Doom riffs followed by some good old Death Metal pummeling. And I really like the sorrowful sounding riff in this final section and the creepy piano outro. There are good moments in other songs as well. I like the sombre majesty and sorrow of the latter half of the closing song “Rendering the Psychic Void”, for example - but obviously I can’t judge songs based on their individual parts.

This album has been a tough nut for me to crack. The music is by its nature not very accessible and I’ve given it numerous spins so that I really “get it”. I like weird and inaccessible music, so I wanted to give this a fair shake. My conclusion is that SHRINE OF THE SERPENT are competent musicians who have all it takes to make good music. They write good riffs, nothing here sounds half-baked. The only problem is that the music as a whole isn’t interesting enough to earn my praise. It’s not the case that if your goal is to bring out feelings of dreariness and despair in the listener your music in itself should be dreary. I’m sure that there are some Doom maniacs who will enjoy this more than me, but I just don’t find repeated listens all too rewarding. That being said, the band surely has potential and I’m interested in what they will make in the future.

Songwriting: 6
Originality: 6
Memorability: 5
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Descend into Dusk
2. Hailing the Enshrined
3. Hope's Aspersion
4. Desecrated Tomb
5. Returning
6. Epoch of Annihilation
7. Rending the Psychic Void
Lineup:
Todd Janeczek - Guitars, Vocals
Chuck Watkins – Drums
Adam DePrez - Guitars, Bass
Record Label: Memento Mori
     


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Edited 25 June 2018
 

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