Competent vocals in the most extreme of metal genres are commonplace. Whether it be the guttural growls and grunts of death metal or the shrieks and howls of black metal, it seems that vast hordes of people can execute them well enough to pass — maybe not in ways that really pop open a listener’s eyes, but at least capably enough that they don’t distract from or diminish the surrounding music. But being merely competent would seem to be a failure in bands who devote themselves to spiritual black metal.
When the paramount goal of the music is to be guided by esoteric mysticism, to become consumed by the black flame, to reveal dimensions that lie outside the mundane world, and to channel the fervency of intense devotion, the vocals need to be out of the ordinary. The voice should sound like the performer is seeing visions most of us can’t see, overcome by inner flames that most of us don’t feel, out on the bleeding edge where rational thought has been banished and the madness of ecstasy or pain (or both) rules the day. Achieving that might test the limits of what human vocal chords can produce without injury, but must at least convey genuine spirit.
Which brings us to Bright Euphoria, the new album by Serpens Luminis.
The occult conceptions that animate this Swiss band are evident from the press materials paving the way for the record’s release by Goathorned Productions on November 15th. They make reference to “the ecstatic fury of the Kundalini rising to Sahasrāra”, “the glorification of Daath”, “a reverence towards the 11-headed Dragon”, and “the luminous arabesques of the 288 divine sparks melted with blasphemous fragments of the sephirot vessels”.
The vocals are entirely in keeping with such devotions. You’ll hear this in the title track from the EP we’re premiering today. The wild screams and cries, which at times seem like some kind of shrieking dialogue among acolytes of the inferno, or at least inmates of a mental institution, are so unhinged that they’re capable of raising goosebumps on one’s arms. As the song’s title suggests, they do very effectively channel a terrifying euphoria.
The surrounding music also sends shivers across the skin. Haunted organ-like chords and vaporous ambient tones set the stage for a piercing, slowly slithering guitar melody and the heaviness of a morbidly stalking bass. Solemn drums become more feverish and eventually leap into a gallop as the riffing becomes a whirlwind of sound. Cannon-like percussive booms accent the rhythmic drive, while the guitars remain chaotic, yet also gleam with a preternatural sheen.
The guitar leads become increasingly shrill and frenzied, spiraling and veering, increasing the music’s atmosphere of fervent, frightening delirium (a fitting companion to those vocals), and they end the song with riveting reverberations.
The song makes a powerful impression, and the other tracks on the record are just as striking. Bright Euphoria features memorable cover art by Business For Satan, and it’s available for pre-order now.