Raised By Wolves
posted on 11/2011 By:
When I was in college, one of my best friends was a gifted psyche-rock guitarist. At the time, I was putting in enough work behind a drum kit that I could just pass for a “drummer.” My friend had about as much ambition as I had skill, so we spent many a lazy evening jamming away in the basement. Since we weren’t going for anything in particular, we let our instruments lead the way. And lead they did—usually through 15-minute mazes of motif development and crescendo.
The new Serpentcult record reminds me of those jams. The band isn’t amateurish like we were. Nor are they as directionless—each of the cuts goes somewhere. But like our improvisations, the pacing on Raised By Wolves is loose and without ego.
Serpentcult originally made their name as part of the recent explosion of female-fronted doom bands. Among their peers—Jex Thoth, Blood Ceremony, Thorr’s Hammer, and so on—Serpentcult was perhaps the most direct and concise. Vocalist Michelle Nocon has now left the fold, leaving a power trio behind.
This trio has wisely elected not to try to fill her shoes. Vocals in general have mostly gone out the window, aside from some faraway-mountaintop singing on the title track and equally distant howling on “Growth of the Soil.” So too has concision. Serpentcult still relies on their ability to squish you with big, blunt riffs. But on this album, they don’t come at you with those riffs held overhead like a hammer. Instead, they stalk you through the woods, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. I’m reminded of Ufomammut—you know the big payoff is coming, but not when. And when it does, it crushes so good.
The remaining members of Serpentcult have been through a lot. All three were in Thee Plague of Gentlemen, a band that dissolved when their lead singer was brought up on child-molestation charges. Their first album, Weight of Light, felt jittery, like the musicians were still trying to shake off the bad memories. But on Raised By Wolves, they’ve settled. They’re unhurried. They’re having fun. They may even be jamming in a basement, somewhere in Belgium. And that’s music to my ears.
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