I first came across the Russian band Serpentrance almost one year ago because a Facebook friend had posted a link to their first single, a killing track named “Obeisance To The Antiquity of Sin”. Details about the band were virtually non-existent, but I wrote about the song and I became their 60th “like” on Facebook. Two months later, a second Serpentrance hymn surfaced, a track named “Aphotic Temples”, and I wrote about that one, too. I still couldn’t find any details about the band, though by then their Facebook presence had risen to 294 likes. The word was spreading by word of mouth.
More months passed, and then in February of this year I saw the announcement that those worshippers of Total Death in Canada’s Vault of Dried Bones had released the first Serpentrance EP, a limited cassette edition named The Besieged Sanctum. It includes both of the songs identified above (though the title of “Obeisance” has been shortened to “Sin”), plus two others — and today we shudder to bring you a premiere of one of those other songs, a monstrous offering of primeval death metal named “The Tongueless Oracle”. But first, a few words about the EP as a whole.
There is a ritualistic quality about the EP. Each of the songs stands quite well on its own, but when you listen to all of them back-to-back, they induce a horrifying reverie of death, slowly building an atmosphere of catastrophe and terror.
The music is massively distorted, drenched in feedback and reverb, with even the penetrating snare beats echoing as if emanating from a vast void. The thick, suffocating, noxious quality of the sound is one of the EP’s signal achievements. It sets your teeth on edge, it oozes illness, it builds tension, it saturates your senses with a feeling of absolute doom and devastation. The shroud of low-frequency vibrations is so overpowering that when shrill, flickering lead guitar excretions and other shrill noises penetrate the murk, their impact is even more intense.
On these songs, Serpentrance have basically two (grinding) gears. For most of the time, they move with gargantuan slowness, delivering extended dirges that pull the listener bodily into a pit of suppurating decay. And then, at carefully chosen moments, they erupt in a chaotic frenzy, with tremolo chords flying and blast-beats sending a surge of adrenaline into your system. When it’s slow, it’s catastrophically doomed, a window into the void. When it’s fast, it’s obliterating. All the while, the vocalist delivers the kind of hollow, abyssal roars and ghastly rising howls that will put you in mind of the ancient vocal horror delivered by people like Craig Pillard (Disma) and John McEntee (Incantation).
The music is stripped down and relatively simple, and more atonal than melodic (and the melodies that exist are thoroughly dismal). Its goal is not technical complexity or “catchiness” but the summoning of primeval death metal malevolence and the creation of morbid atmosphere. It achieves those goals in a frighteningly masterful way.
The Besieged Sanctum is still available from Vault of Dried Bones, along with an excellent t-shirt featuring the tape’s cover art by one of the band’s members (Morkh) at this location. Blackpriest from the Austrian band Abhorrot provides additional chants on the song “Among Timeless Tombs”. Serpentrance are now up to 859 Facebook likes.
In addition to our premiere of “The Tongueless Oracle”, we’re including streams of the previously released songs “Sin” and “Aphotic Temples”.