Review & Track Premiere: Holy Serpent, Endless

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

holy serpent

[Click play above to stream ‘Hourglass’ from Holy Serpent’s Endless. Album is out Oct. 18 on RidingEasy Records. They’re on tour in Europe now (dates here).]

With their third full-length for RidingEasy Records, Melbourne, Australia’s Holy Serpent would seem to realize the vision of heavy they’ve been chasing for the last half-decade. The four-piece bring forth six tracks across the 40 minutes of Endless, which continues a theme of single-word titles from its predecessor, 2016’s Temples (review here) — their 2015 debut was self-titled (review here) — and with them, set out into an expanse of tone, and lush, patiently-delivered roll, shuffle and melody. It’s the latter that proves most crucial, as guitarist Scott Penberthy‘s vocals come across with more distinction and confidence throughout and work to make songs like “Daughter of the Light” all the more consuming. Joined by guitarist Nick Donoughue, bassist Dave Bartlett and drummer Lance LeembrugenPenberthy crafts lush and psychedelic vocals in the tradition of Mars Red Sky even as he and Donoughue dig into riffs that remind alternately of newer Windhand‘s take on grunge — particularly on the penultimate “For No One,” also the longest track at 7:44 — or of a hybridized Uncle Acid buzz and Electric Wizard lumber on opener “Lord Deceptor” and side A finale “Daughter of the Light.”

To this context, however, Holy Serpent add a marked personality of their own, with howling guitars intertwining on “Daughter of the Light” and an uptick of doom metal in second track “Into the Fire,” even as the layers of vocals drawl out over the midsection of the song. The light/dark blend of melody, crunch and sprawl gives Endless a psychedelic earthiness; something that, in the past, the band has referred to as “shroom doom,” but never quite captured as completely as they do here. That’s fitting enough for the narrative of the “third album,” but cliché or no, the work they do in these tracks is a manifestation not to be discounted simply because it makes a convenient story. The simple fact is Holy Serpent have written a collection of songs that brings their approach to a new echelon of presence and execution, and Endless deserves to be in the conversation of the best heavy psych offerings of 2019.

In terms of setting a mood, Holy Serpent do so with a natural flair, their riffs providing a foundation from which the song is expanded, “Hourglass” adding either keys or effects or else I’m just hearing things during the verse for further melodic flourish. This leads the way into a three-song side B that answers back the complete control over the proceedings the foursome display through the first three tracks: “Lord Deceptor,” “Into the Fire” and “Daughter of the Light.” The opener is especially important for the lead-in it gives not just with its own post-Witchcult Today riff, but with how it uses that in order to make its own statement about who Holy Serpent are and have become. Its depth of mix is essential, and it unfolds in a way that’s either hypnotic or enthralling depending on how one wants to listen to it, and easy as it is to get lost in the spirit of the piece by the end of its 6:47, which meets head on with the snap-back-to-consciousness of the more uptempo intro to “Into the Fire.”

holy serpent endless

Rest assured there’s plenty of plod and tonal heft there as well, but a more swinging take after the opener does well in furthering the scope of Endless overall. Again, it’s not that Holy Serpent are the first ones ever to establish this kind of dynamic, but it’s how they do it and the fluidity with which they conjure in the process that makes Endless such an engaging listen. “Daughter of the Light” seems to meet “Into the Fire” and “Lord Deceptor” halfway and so is a fitting summary of where the band have taken the album to this point, but it’s still not the final word as regards the story of the growth that the band have undertaken over the last five years, as “Hourglass,” “For No One” and the closer “Marijuana Trench” (as opposed, one assumes, to Marianas) are still to come, each one bringing something to add to the strength of Endless as a whole.

The midtempo push of “Hourglass” is met by a deceptively catchy lyric and guitar line, and the slower-faster interplay between “Lord Deceptor” and “Into the Fire” that started the record seems to meet its mirror image in the faster-slower transition from “Hourglass” into “For No One.” A plodding, crashing, deep-running vision of stoned grunge is met by vocal harmonies and creative layering in the verse hook, and while Windhand has already been noted as a touchstone for the style, Holy Serpent effectively make the case that there’s more in weaving heavy psych fuzz and flannel-and-Doc-Martins stylizations to be explored. I don’t know what it might lead to, but “For No One” sounds like a definitive forward step, and that’s always welcome as far as I’m concerned. A noisy finish seems like it might be the apex of Endless as “Marijuana Trench”‘s standout goofball title makes it seem somewhat of a drawdown from the prior cuts and its acoustic-based intro is a departure as well, but the wash into which the band launch as the song plays out is not at all to be discounted because they made a weed pun, and if anything, it builds on the considerable accomplishments before it in crafting a humming universe of noise.

That is the course of Endless, and perhaps some of the reason it feels like such a moment of arrival for Holy Serpent is because the songs do so well in setting their atmosphere and dwelling in it. Australia has a well-populated underground scene, Melbourne specifically so, but I have a hard time thinking of another band from the region who’ve been able to take influences from the sphere of modern heavy and turn them into something so complete and individualized. I don’t necessarily think Holy Serpent are done refining their processes — which is only good news, frankly — but it does seem like they’ve come to a new understanding of who they are and who they want to be as a band, and that has resulted in an LP that is refreshing and engrossing at the same time. Mine it for sonic details or put it on and let your brain melt; there’s really no wrong way to go.

Holy Serpent on Thee Facebooks

Holy Serpent on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records website

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Holy Serpent Announce New Album Endless & European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

holy serpent

Perhaps Holy Serpent said it best when on 2016’s Temples (review here) in 2016 they closed out with the 11-minute “Sativan Harvest,” and by “said it” I definitely mean “riffed it.” Still, there’s more work to be done on the part of the Melbourne four-piece, who’ve set themselves a high standard (pun SO intended) between that outing and their 2015 self-titled (review here), and their third album, Endless, will be out Oct. 4 on RidingEasy Records. They’ll spend the better part of the prior month touring in Europe thanks to a helping hand from Heavy Psych Sounds‘ booking wing — a formalized alliance between the US-based RidingEasy and Italian Heavy Psych Sounds would be nothing to sneeze at if it became a more regular occurrence; this isn’t the first time they’ve crossed paths, certainly — and one imagines they’ll either be selling copies of the new record or just generally promoting the crap out of it leading up to the release. US tour after? That’d be awfully nice.

The band’s announcement via social media and the tour dates follow:

holy serpent tour

*** HOLY SERPENT – ‘ENDLESS’ EUROPEAN TOUR 2019 ***

We’re finally making our way over to Europe this September.

Something we’ve all collectively been waiting for ever since we picked up instruments.

We’re doing a hard slog of 25 shows in a row that might just kill us, or make us really fkn strong.. Also BONUS NEWS – our 3rd album titled ‘ENDLESS’ will be out on RidingEasy Records on October 4th, 2019.

Thanks to HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS for booking this tour, we’re all super psyched and also a bit nervous.. Cheers to our bro Dan in RidingEasy Records for taking a chance on a bunch of dudes from down under!

Thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way, brought a record, come to a show or even hit like on a post. It’s amazing to know that we got people watching us all over the world.

Peace and Love and Marijuana.. Holy Serpent.

*** HOLY SERPENT – ‘ENDLESS’ EUROPEAN TOUR 2019 ***
04.09.2019 IT Roma-Wishlist
05.09.2019 IT Torino-Blah Blah
06.09.2019 IT Parma-Splinter
07.09.2019 IT Alessandria-Cascina Bellaria
08.09.2019 IT Verona/Mantova tba
09.09.2019 IT Zerobranco-Altroquando
10.09.2019 AT Wien-Venster99
11.09.2019 AT Salzburg-Rockhouse
12.09.2019 DE Augsburg-City Club
13.09.2019 CH Olten-Coq D’Or
14.09.2019 CH Brunnen-Kult Turm
15.09.2019 FR Lille
16.09.2019 UK
17.09.2019 UK
18.09.2019 UK Bristol
19.09.2019 FR Paris-Le Cirque Eletrique
20.09.2019 CH Martigny-Le Caves Du Manoir
21.09.2019 DE Mannheim
22.09.2019 DE DE Frankfurt
23.09.2019 DE Koln-MTC
24.09.2019 DE Bielefeld-Potemkin
25.09.2019 DE Oldenburg-MTS Record
26.09.2019 DE Berlin-Toast Hawaii
27.09.2019 DE Siegen-Vortex
28.09.2019 CH Frauenfeld-Kaff

HOLY SERPENT is:
Scott Penberthy – Guitar/Vocals
Nick Donoughue – Guitar
Dave Bartlett – Bass
Lance Leembrugen – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/HolySerpentBand/
https://holyserpentband.bandcamp.com
http://ridingeasyrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/

Holy Serpent, Temples (2016)

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