Serpentine Path – S/T

The unholy beast of Tim Bagshaw (ex-Electric Wizard, ex-Ramesses) has arisen anew – again – this time with not one, not two, but all three members of New York sludgsters Unearthly Trance. Add Stephen Flam of Winter to that potent mix (who joined after this album was recorded), and you’ve got a Doomdozer of immense destructive capability bearing down upon you. And with this earth mover arrives guitar-ground-in-gravel tone, controlled feedback, and dissonant chording tailor-made to inflame rage and sadness both. The potent, power-hitting rhythm section of Darren Verni and Jay Newman (whose exquisitely distorted bass rides high in the mix) keeps this new band’s songs founded in steel-reinforced concrete, all while Ryan Lipynsky growls and howls on top of that cooling lava of riffery in a way one wouldn’t necessarily expect – with a fevered, warning pitch that remains lyrically discernible throughout.

But besides a shared, impeccable pedigree and noteworthy individual contributions, what about Serpentine Path, with all the quality doom around these days, helps them stand apart? In a word – and this may surprise you – subtlety. For between the bunkers of heaviness, quiet/nigh-inaudible (yet still ominous) synths lie in repose, catching you when you’re not looking, and Iommi-esque hammer-ons saw through those stomping, down-picked passages. Melody lines/leads mull behind wailing sound walls, making themselves known, but not demanding attention. Point being, if you haven’t spun this album, when you do I recommend listening in closely to the ‘paths’ (sorry, couldn’t resist) in production this collection of scene heavyweights take in between the punishments.

As I run through this album for the third time, the sense that this is the band these gents were meant to create overwhelms … and that is not a back-handed slam to the great work each of them has done in the past. I mean only this: often, as musicians come out of old entanglements into new, we fans are left looking backward, hankering for what came before; so, it is refreshing that, in Serpentine Path’s case, no such nostalgic bleating need be made at all. -Jim

Relapse Records

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~ by cliftonium on November 13, 2012.

One Response to “Serpentine Path – S/T”

  1. Since I recently fucked up and reviewed the same CD Jim did a while ago, I’ll add my 2 cents to the comments section…..

    Serpentine Path – S/T
    Containing all the members of Unearthly Trance, along with Tim Bangshaw (Electric Wizard), the debut full-length from New York’s Serpentine Path is a bone shaker of detuned and blunt force trauma death doom. Thought the sluggish pull of Electric Wizard can be heard and felt in the more simplistic harmonies on tracks like “Obsoletion”, Serpentine Path thankfully keep this album deep in the dungeon where deathly intentions manifest. The bio tries to sell this album as a cross between Severed Survival and Paranoid, which I guess works for something quick, but SP lack the flair and bluesy brilliance of Sabbath and the grotesquely clever songwriting of Autopsy. A murky yet full sound production that focuses on loud amp torture over pro-tools Amplitube simulation is the only real seepage one could siphon out of Autopsy’s colostomy bag and once I got the stupid bio propaganda out of my head (I
    seriously try to avoid these), I just let this album play and try not to pin any
    comparisons to it. The vocals upheave cavernously brutal death moans from the ruptured throat of Ryan Lipynsky and never really deviate from this style. It fits the plodding boom of the music perfectly, though a bit of variation would have been a welcomed addition. The lack of seperation between tracks and the unfortunate absence of musical layers, like simplistic harmonies (though a bit of interest creeps into the excellent closing track “Only a Monolith Remains”), or a wandering bass line on occasion to break-up the maddening crush of the main riffs that nail each track to the sonic tundra, really needed to be there. For what it is, Serpentine Path have created a solid and punishing morsel of death doom which I ended up appreciating, BUT one cannot help but lose interest at the midway point of this release due to the aforementioned lack of songwriting ingenuity, or dynamics. Sure… repeatedly knocking them over the head will eventually kill your victims, but at some point you gotta stop once the job is done. I see this band as having a bit of work ahead of them, or they will be damned to repeat themselves with another album of plodding doom that will be seen as visionless. I greatly enjoy the cover art on this release… it’s what drew me to giving this a spin. The striking image and color scheme were certainly unique. I wish a bit more of the visual appeal transcended into the music on this otherwise decent album. -Marty
    Relapse Records

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