When it comes to Emanations, the second long-player from metro NYC-based Serpentine Path, you’re probably going to hear a lot of people talk about how dark it is. How extreme. How their death-sludge sounds even more like some kind of East River pollution tar pit that’s growing by the year and smells like decay. Okay, maybe that last one you won’t hear all the time, but you get my point. It’s fucking dark. What you’re not going to hear people talk about is the obvious glee the band — who probably qualify for supergroup status with vocalist Ryan Lipynski (ex-Unearthly Trance, The Howling Wind), guitarists Tim Bagshaw (ex-Ramesses) and Stephen Flam (Winter), bassist Jay Newman (ex-Unearthly Trance) and drummer Darren Verni (ex-Unearthly Trance), though I’m not sure if they’ve filled out the proper paperwork to be certified — have for the miseries they create. They’re well enough hidden, but in the soloing at the end of “Torment” or the unmitigated stomp that follows, or in the twisted hook of the preceding “Systematic Extinction,” it’s there. Just because a band is skull-cavingly heavy doesn’t mean they can’t also have a good time.
Maybe that’s not the thing to say, but when I listen to a song like the mournful “Treacherous Waters” and cringe at the grueling, malevolent churn that Serpentine Path have crafted as the follow-up to their 2012 self-titled debut (discussed here), it sounds as much like the band is celebrating their extremity as much as they’re using it to create bleak, abrasive soundscapes. It’s not like Serpentine Path are writing joke songs and goofing around, but neither is their deep-low-end viciousness delivered without passion. Emanations is not a cold album, and that separates it from a lot of extreme metal, which comes across as plenty heavy, but also clinical and more concerned with technique than atmosphere. As if to begin in direct contrast to the very idea, the way opener “House of Worship” hits immediately, no intro, and launches into its first verse is practically punk rock, just twisted into slow grinding and given a sludgy groove that, as “Treacherous Waters” and “Claws” move into the highlight cut “Disfigured Colossus,” answers back the depressive melodicism of ’90s Euro-doom with a gritty, particularly dismal reinterpretation that’s as nasty as anything that’s come before it.
They don’t take much longer than that first verse to distinguish themselves and set the course for what’s to play out over Emanations‘ seven-song/45-minute span, but in kind with the classic death metal sensibilities evoked by the music as much as the cover art, the wretched psychedelia they create is an abyss of deceptive depth, and one that warrants a headphone listen to experience correctly. Their tales may be morbid, and they may tell them with a lumbering brutality, but Serpentine Path also stand for the excellent end results that can occur with an assemblage of those whose joy derives from such dark artistry. And with the addition of Flam since the release of the self-titled, the continued chemistry of Lipynski, Newman and Verni bled over from Unearthly Trance, as well as the lethally heavy collaboration with Bagshaw which is all the more cohesive this second time out, they have plenty to be glad about with the crushing filth they’ve created.
The album is out today on Relapse and I have the honor of streaming it in full. Find it below and please enjoy:
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Serpentine Path‘s Emanations was recorded by Jay Newman and is available now on Relapse Records LP, CD and digital. For more info, check the links.