- SPIN Rating:8 of 10
Label: Relapse Records
For anyone who's ever wondered what a super-group featuring members of Electric Wizard, Winter, Unearthly Trance, and Ramesses would sound like, Serpentine Path would be happy to show you -- by force, if necessary.
Though the band may be a bit unfamiliar to anyone besides dyed-in-denim doom heads, the NYC quintet's latest release for Relapse makes for one hell of an introduction. The recent addition of Winter guitarist Stephen Flam beefs up an already intimidating original lineup that featured former Electric Wizard and Ramesses riffer Tim Bagshaw, as well as a devastating rhythm section (Jay Newman and Darren Verni) and vocalist (Ryan Lipynsky) culled from now-defunct extreme doom toughs Unearthly Trance. Even more impressive than those bona fides, Serpentine Path are that rare supergroup that manages to deliver the goods without leaning too heavily on traits from its members' better-known projects. Sure, they continue to tread heavily down the death/doom path, but they refine their approach on Emanations. Whereas the band's first effort felt a little rushed and uncertain at times, this sophomore LP sees them finally find their footing and gel into something deliciously horrible: think Autopsy on the brown acid.
Opening track "Essence of Heresy" is a short and ugly mission statement that sees some particularly putrid vocal stylings from Ryan Lipynsky (also of The Howling Wind and Force & Fire) bubble up between the slowed-down death metal grind. Flam and Bagshaw trade off slow-burning, deliberate riffs shaded with the occasional acid flashback (Bagshaw's days in 'Wizard have colored his playing with a certain psychedelic hue). Cloaked in oppressive atmosphere, "Disfigured Colossus" pulsates with dark energy, while "Systematic Extinction" is the album's most blatantly melodic moment, all wide-open chords and stoned, almost psychedelic noodling. It offers a brief respite from the bludgeoning, but album closer "Torment" dives straight back into a whirl of noise before dissolving into a torturous, Celtic Frosted trudge (which sees Lipynsky doing his best Tom G. Warrior impression). Emanations is more than just a solid effort from a bunch of doom vets; it's a gale-force crusher of an album, and just might be one of 2014's heaviest.