Generation of Vipers
posted on 5/2006 By:
Generation of Vipers is the latest band to set off upon the trail that was blazed by Neurosis and is now traversed by a growing legion. The most recent wave of bands in this style has enjoyed some moderate successes, but most haven’t been able to keep pace with the deservedly big names of the movement, like Isis, Cult of Luna, Pelican, and Neurosis. Three of the four of those (Pelican being the exception) are in the process of readying efforts that will no doubt remind us how enthralling this style can be, but in the meantime, these new kids from Knoxville, Tennessee have served up in their debut an album as enjoyable as anything the genre has had to offer over the last several months. While many of their peers make good use of layers of swaying, serene melodies cozied up to contrasting crushing, aggressive releases, Generation of Vipers maintains a consistently darker, more foreboding quality. Like Neurosis themselves and Sweden’s Abandon, GoV is less likely to conjure visions of tides than of rocky, barren and unforgiving terrain. The band employs lots of repetitive rhythms and droning ambience to create a harshly hypnotic effect that offers only occasional respite with basic but well designed and effective melody. Although Grace does have the layered sound that you’d expect to hear, Generation of Vipers is a three piece, which lends to their desolate, organic feel.
Grace’s forty-minute length is comprised of only four tracks, but the songs are not as long as one would assume. Along with shorter (by genre standard) tracks of four, seven, and ten minute lengths is the towering centerpiece of the album, the eighteen-minute “In the Crushing Fists of God”. The fact that it not only doesn’t feel overlong but also doesn’t dominate the album says something about Grace’s consistency and cohesiveness. “Thaw” opens the album as a quasi-interlude built around swirling atmosphere and a pained melody from a forcefully strummed acoustic guitar line. Percussion is used judiciously, joining only occasionally for emphasis. At its end, “Thaw”, like the two tracks that follow, devolves into a more neutral space and flows directly into its successor. Grace isn’t exactly spilling over with variety, and some may find this seamless presentation accentuates the album’s singular approach, but most will appreciate the album’s consistency. Generation of Vipers show impressive instinct, as even for a new band they have a good feel for the spatial elements of the style and do well to create a feeling of sparseness without actually being sparse. They shift tempos and drape melodies across the structures in a measured, thoughtful manner, which gives the songs more depth than face value reveals. Inclusions like stretches of well-placed acoustic accompaniment (“In the Crushing Fists of God”, “Thaw”) and varying degrees of percussive involvement and approaches help build tension and hammer home the periods of catharsis (The tapping guitar melody during the transition four minutes into “Blood in the Belly” deserves special mention). And throughout the proceedings, singer/guitarist Joshua Holt belts out his vocals in the customary gruff style, but they rest pretty far into the mix, so he sounds like he’s roaring from behind a concrete door. Again, this approach can get kind of samey, but is in keeping with the ethos of the album. I’ll guess that Red Witch Recordings is the band’s own label, but it seems likely that Generation of Vipers will have the chance to move to a more established home should they choose, as Grace will impress those who go to the trouble of seeking it out.
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