Album Title: Serpents Ov Old
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Date of Release: 29 October 2021
Continuing apace with my rediscovered love of reviewing, today I bring you my thoughts on a vicious little beast otherwise known as ‘Serpents Ov Old’, the second release from Doedsvangr following up their 2017 debut ‘Satan Ov Suns’. It’s my first foray into the dark, depraved world of this particular band, a band that features musicians from both Norway and Finland. A quartet, Doedsvangr currently consists of vocalist Doedsadmiral, guitarists and bassists Shatraug and BST, and drummer AntiChristian. In addition, ‘Serpents Ov Old’ welcomes two guest vocalists in the shape of Vicotnic and Nag who feature on a couple of the tracks here.
Put simply, ‘Serpents Ov Old’ is a record very much for fans of the black metal scene, but the kind of black metal that’s raw, vicious, spiteful, and full of that dirt and grime that you traditionally expect from the genre. Doedsvangr take their cue from the likes of Venom and Mayhem, but don’t just remain there as pure copycats. Instead, they seek to blend the uncompromising rawness of scything, cold riffs, blasts and depraved growls with a little melody and, as the press release suggests, a rock ‘n’ roll swagger. Thinking about it, given how spiky the music on this album actually is, I suggest ‘concoct’ might be a better adjective than ‘blend’.
At this stage, I’ll be totally honest; ‘Serpents Ov Old’ isn’t an easy listen. The production is deliberately dense and slightly raw, with an emphasis on the treble. It means that, after a while, I get a little fatigued and my ears yearn for a break from the pummelling. And, even at 44 minutes in length, it does feel a little long, with a lack of a wow factor at points within the record. At one point, my eldest daughter was heard to say ‘Daddy, this music sounds all the same’. That’s a little unfair on Doedsvangr, but there is a vague vein of truth there. But regardless of these concerns, I do find myself returning for repeated listens more frequently than I expected.
Personally speaking, I find that Doedsvangr are at their best when the melodies are more overt and anthemic. It doesn’t happen often enough for my tastes but when it does, the results are very powerful. Take ‘As The Rivers Bleed Their Blessings’ as the perfect example. It starts off with a mid-tempo stomp that carries with it a sense of doomy malevolence, an inexorable type of violence that suddenly opens up into a much more accessible and anthemic affair, led by an icy lead guitar line that’s so catchy it’s ridiculous. It’s not only arresting, it provides a little welcome release from the intense battery elsewhere.
The final track, ‘Poisonous Tides’ doesn’t necessarily deserve its run-time of over seven minutes, but it does carry with it a more majestic air than most; it generally plunders a strong, almost hypnotic mid-tempo that has a demonstrable charm, whilst the subtle dusting of melody towards the latter stages ensures that the album ends on a very positive note.
‘Black Dragon Phoenix’ meanwhile benefits from a nice mid-section that injects a more pronounced mid-tempo groove as well as melody. The use of some tortured spoken-word vocals and a hint of cleaner singing helps to add to the sense of drama, making this one of the stand-out tracks on ‘Serpents Ov Old’.
Interestingly, I’m also drawn to songs like ‘Carrier Of Heads’ because of the thunderous drumming that sits at its heart as well as the chosen riffs that are both potent and as impenetrable as a glacier. But within the song, there are periods where it almost gallops with a sense of undeniable arrogance.
Otherwise, the music is pretty devilish, unrelenting, and definitely unrepentant. It will appeal to those who enjoy their black metal in this vein for sure, as it does what it does very well indeed. It’s a more than competent affair, and Doedsvangr are definitely a tight unit, bringing all the necessary skills and ingredients to bear. As far as I’m concerned though, whilst I like a lot of the material here, I’d have preferred a greater use of melody as heard within ‘As The Rivers Bleed Their Blessings’. This is such a good song, it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity not to explore this avenue more. As such, ‘Serpents Ov Old’ is a good album, just not an essential addition to my collection.
The Score of Much Metal: 77%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: