(Here’s DGR’s review of a new two-song EP by the Greek band Human Serpent, which was released on November 18th.)
It wouldn’t be a black metal release if it didn’t have a flair for the dramatic, and the duo behind Greece’s Human Serpent are no different, describing their latest release — a two song EP entitled The Vacuity — as having been written during “the last days” of’ 2016 and 2018, and recorded at various points in “autumntime of 2017” and “wintertime of 2019”. It’s a simple turn of phrase that can easily be read as “the music for this was written during the last week of….”, but because it is black metal and in the case of Human Serpent, fiery and high-speed black metal, “the last days of…” begins to sound suitably apocalyptic, as if the world ended at the end of each of those two years.
Going by Human Serpent‘s prior discography the group would be more than happy to provide the soundtrack to such events.
The Vacuity consists of two songs — “Time Heals Nothing” and “The Vacuity” — and scrapes up against ten minutes in length. The writing window for the two songs suggests that they’ve been slowly worked on in between the band’s albums, as many of their releases have actually been at the front half of the year — their 2016 split Conscious Self Destruction Of The New World hit in May of that year, and 2018’s For I, The Misanthropist was a January release – so what is present musically actually exists in a bit of a vacuum, with a somewhat hazy through-line to the albums that would’ve been coming out around the time the duo have said they were working on them.
What is more obvious, is that The Vacuity is an interesting spin on the band’s sound. The music falls pretty well in line with the ferocity that Human Serpent usually display, but the title song is a much longer track, thanks to a long and somewhat ambient nightmare section following the initial firestorm that the band throw forth.
“Time Heals Nothing” starts at full-bore and never really lets up from there. Human Serpent have mastered the art of 100% all of the time, no subtlety in the songwriting but somehow working the occasional melodic hook into the event so that even at its most overwhelming there’s something to lock you in. In the midst of the near-ceaseless howls of the song’s opening minute, the band weave a small variety of different guitar leads into the more up-front assault. The drums remain a constant and ever-present blast for the most part, as the rest of the guitars find themselves being wailed on.
While we’re often quick to credit black metal songs as being providers of absolute aural hellfire, Human Serpent enable us to continue making that comparison with some validity. “Time Heals Nothing” basically never stops and burns three-and-a-half-minutes to the ground, only fading away briefly so that listeners can then be awakened just as suddenly with the opening of “The Vacuity” and its multi-layered vocal attack, where everything in the song’s mix just seems to be piling out on top of each other.
“The Vacuity” is the more dynamic of the two songs, a benefit of being the longer of the two. It’s in “The Vacuity” that Human Serpent mine a little bit of black-metal’s songwriting tropes instead of going for the head-on assault the whole way through. While that is very much present and the group put their own spin on it with the constant vocal attack, Human Serpent maintain a pretty heavy and familiar stomping guitar riff in between each segment before bringing things to an almost literal halt for the previously mentioned quieter part of the song. At almost halfway through, “The Vacuity” fades into near silence before an echoing guitar resurrects the song for a slow dirge of a closing section that finds itself subtracting instruments – and amplification — as needed.
Part pulse of life and part auditory experiment, the two songs contained within The Vacuity help explain why Human Serpent are steadily building steam behind them. The duo’s taste for non-stop extremity makes it so that the initial pitch for Human Serpent is easily understood — it’s music for being dropped into a furnace — although Human Serpent capably work in the occasional melodic guitar lead to ride alongside that assault making the auditory burning that much more enjoyable. The experimentation lines up with right about where the band left off with I, The Misanthropist last year, hinting at a more dynamic take on the group’s endless font of nihilism.
At about ten minutes in length. The Vacuity flies by and is a worthy listen.