Today we have an example of music that seems to arrive straight out of the sky without much warning, something that dazzles and destroys with such devastating heaviness and mind-bending but unnerving inventiveness that it’s startling to realize it’s a band’s debut effort. But that indeed is what we have — two songs from Ensemble Under The Dark Sun, the first full-length by the Turkish quintet Serpent of Old.
We don’t yet know very much about the band’s background, though it appears they share members with the technical death/thrash band Archaic Vanity (who have one 2020 EP to their name). But the music tells us enough to pay very close attention as we wait for the album’s release by Transcending Obscurity Records.x
Let’s take the afore-mentioned two songs one at a time, beginning with “The Fall“. It’s 10 minutes long, which might suggest we’re in the realm of Doom or maybe some kind of Prog-Metal epic, and there are in fact some aspects of the song that crawl down into Doom crevasses, most especially at the start, when the song lumbers and the guitars create a corrosive harmony of misery, pierced by fretwork frenzies of pain and frantic drum eruptions.
Steadily the pain moves toward derangement until it boils over into rapidly hammering drums, shrill writhing riffage, and heaving lo-frequency tones, just in time for guttural growls to take their place. The riffing morphs into different visions of hopelessness and despair that shatter into madness, and the rhythm section make their own twists and turns, creating both towering heaviness and ruinous rampages.
And this is why the band used 10 minutes to make “The Fall” — because the path they chose to carve is an elaborate and frequently changing one. It includes electrifying fretwork swirls and throat-ruining screams, crescendos of terrifying grandeur and groaning descents into pits of pestilence and rot, technically intricate guitar convulsions and speedy jackhammering. And so “The Fall” becomes a head-spinning musical pageant, not a celebration but a riveting rendering of catastrophe.
There’s a risk in selecting a song like that as your album’s first single. We don’t yet know the track list, but “The Fall” is so stunning that it seems tailor-made as an album closer, something to send listeners away in an eye-popped, jaw-dropped, awe-struck state. So how do you follow that intricate blackened death metal alchemy in the rollout of album excerpts? Obviously, we have your answer today.
“Idiosyncrasy” is only half as long as “The Fall“, and thus might have made a more conventional first single, and not just because of its length. It’s designed to seize attention quickly, not only because of its grim and punishing overture but also because of the magnetizing ring of the dual-guitar riff that leaps into the ears at the 0:34 mark. The guitars don’t loosen that grip, but continue to vibrate in madness over the crushing that’s happening in the low end.
Despite being half as long as “The Fall“, the band still pack it with changes – changes in tempo, changes in riffing, changes in drum patterns. The pealing tones of the lead guitars again translate deleterious moods, in sounds that are dissonant and disturbing yet still glimmering, glittering, piercing — bewildering in their permutations but really hard to forget.
So, while Ensemble Under The Dark Sun is branded as blackened death metal, it’s already obvious that the music is more multi-faceted than that. Doom and Prog do play roles in the songcraft, and the technical proficiency is unusually good. Plus, despite the intricacy of these twisted musical pathways, there’s cohesiveness in the way Serpent of Old use their many motifs. It’s undeniably dark and vicious stuff, but quite dazzling and memorable too.
SERPENT OF OLD are:
Ozan Gürbüz – Vocals
Atakan Güçlü – Guitars
Doğa Tarhan – Guitars
Yalaz Öner – Bass
Kerem Kaan – Drums
Befitting the head-spinning, sinister, and enthralling nature of the music, Santiago Caruso made a stellar piece of cover art that ties together both the band’s name and their album’s title , a massive serpent encircling a world beneath a frightening black sun.
Transcending Obscurity recommends the album for fans of The Chasm, Ulcerate, Dead Congregation, Burial Hordes, Dysgnostic, and Devenial Verdict. Pre-orders will be available soon via the links below
SERPENT OF OLD: