Monday 21 May 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Shrine of the Serpent, "Entropic Disillusion"

By: Mark Ambrose

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23/04/2018
Label: Memento Mori Records

Whether cranking out a moldering dirge like the introductory, instrumental “Descend into Dusk” or the chugging progressions of “Hope’s Aspersion”, Shrine of the Serpent deliver the perfect mix of nauseating terror so often characterized by the best death doom bands

“Entropic Disillusion” CD//DD track listing

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

The Review:

I love the menacing crackle of lo-fi death metal in all its permutations: classic, grind, blackened, death doom.  There’s a muddy, horrific vein running through those crusty recordings that instantly invoke twilight drives through swamps and decrepit woods, all-night gore flick marathons, and seedy exploitation VHS rentals that just sets my monster kid heart all aflutter.  Combined with the gruesome, sometimes nauseating artwork that typifies the genre (even the borderline incompetent shit), even the rawest demo tape can turn me into an easy mark for bands who can thrash out a competent slab of death.  It helps when they manage to back up their swagger with some real bona fides, and the trio behind Shrine of the Serpent have some real chops on display, bolstered by haunting cover artwork by Mariusz Lewandowski & Vladimir Chebakov. 

Whether cranking out a moldering dirge like the introductory, instrumental “Descend into Dusk”, or the chugging progressions of “Hope’s Aspersion”, Shrine of the Serpent has one unifying characteristic: VOLUME.  The vibrating bass tones and the shrieking crackle of guitar leads are fuzzy, dirty, and punishing.  Often, this hits that perfect mix of nauseating terror that characterizes the best death doom bands.  Todd Janeczek’s inhuman growls are multitracked and layered in several different registers, imbuing tracks like “Desecrated Tomb” with the sense that there’s a whole host of ghoulish, unholy narrators.  Chuck Watkins’ drum performance is that subtle balance of technical skill and instinctual barbarism that the best death drummers can pull off effortlessly.  And Adam De Prez’s multi-duty efforts are formidable, especially his unholy bass tone.

Unfortunately, there’s a lack of balance in the mix that quashes some stellar intricacy.  The left channel in particular is just too damn jacked into the red zone, so you get clipping on many of the guitar tracks.  And frankly the punishing volume can be unpleasant and diminish moments like the volume shift in “Epoch of Annihilation” that should be chilling but instead sounds strange.  This volume escalation is an issue that plagued even the best death metal bands, as well as modern superstars (Metallica and Rush have both fallen victim to “volume wars” in recent years).  For a band so solid in every sense of the term – rhythmically, technically, and vocally – a steadier touch at the mixing board next time may produce a genuine masterpiece.  For now, withEntropic Disillusion”, Shrine of the Serpent embraces both the pinnacles, and pitfalls, that decades of death metal have traversed, while showing promise for exciting work ahead.

“Entropic Disillusion” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook