It seems almost cliche to attribute a band as sounding like Black Sabbath, especially if you listen to half of the bands that I do. However, it is nearly impossible to critique the sounds of new doom/stoner rock and metal bands such as Witchcraft, Electric Wizard, Blood Ceremony, and Graveyard without drawing some sort of comparison to Sabbath and other pioneers in the field including Pentagram, Coven, and Black Widow. What first grabbed my attention with this small new release of last week (1/27/09) was the large sticker on the front of the album reading, "For fans of Black Sabbath and early Scorpions." Hmm, sounded just like my cup of tea. The name Serpent Throne didn't hurt matters either, so I decided to give it a listen. What I found with Serpent Throne was one of the most authentic sounds and approaches to the whole 1970's revival with no vocals whatsoever and some of the best guitar work that would give founding fathers among the likes of Tony Iommi and Richie Blackmore a run for their money.
The tones on this record are what first hit me like a ton of bricks. This Philadelphia four piece has done their homework, kept things simple, and might really be on to something. I don't miss vocals at all and feel that this instrumental format really gives the listener the freedom to draw their own conclusion with the album. Unlike many other similar bands today, I hear more than just heavy drones and slow tempos on this record. With this album, much like their debut soundtrack to Ride Satan Ride, Serpent Throne focuses as much on the 70's boogie element as they do the heavy blues riffs. I hear much more than just Sabbath on this record, though there is no denying the strong influence that they have on the sound, especially in the guitar work. Both Demian Fenton and Don Argott, are monster players and have honed their guitar tones to complement each other in the all instrumental format here. Neither overplays and each gives exactly what is needed to make things sound big and thick, at the same time making the lead lines harmonize well and soar over top of the songs' main riffs. Apart from the obvious love of Black Sabbath, I also hear a great deal of Deep Purple, Leafhound, and Cactus coming through especially in the rhythm section. Drummer Sean-Paul Fenton and bassist Colin Smith keep things loose on the low end and keep the record moving throughout with a great pocket feel that is never rushed or forced. Unlike most records, it is nearly impossible to pick a favorite track and, to be honest with you, it is hard to notice when one track ends and the other begins. Not a bad thing per say, but I find myself getting lost in the record and not looking up until the album has concluded. The whole thing flows together near perfectly, with a great attention to dynamics and tempos.
Like their first album, this record would make a great soundtrack to a 70's biker/outlaw film and would be the a perfect companion to riding a motorcycle across the desert in the middle of the night. So let your hair down, crank your chopper, and load your bongs. All in all, this record sounds like stepping back into 1973. -AB