Serpent Column mangle black metal’s borders to create own darkness on entrancing ‘Invicta’

I’ve never been able to understand people with rigid outlooks on life and feeling there is only one right way, only one true type of person, only one path. Those people tend to be rather boring and, if we’re being honest, almost always are assholes. Is it fear of reaching out to territory previously strange to them? Is it an inherent weakness in admitting other ways and other people may be right?

I got to thinking about that when going through the admittedly sparse bio accompanying “Invicta,” the second record from mysterious black metal duo Serpent Column. I was instantly interested as their debut “Ornuthi Thalassa” is frequently visited on my Bandcamp collection, so I already knew how daring this band was. But the bio material spoke of lashing out against narrow thinking and embracing diversity, be that of thought, other people, and even the way they approach their music. Guitarist/bassist/vocalist Theophilos and drummer/ambient sound designer/backing vocalist Maya do not head down a normal, beaten path to create the three tracks that appear here. Your senses are battered taking on these songs, but you also are stimulated intellectually because the band is making you think. You can’t predict the next turn because it isn’t easily sniffed out. That’s refreshing and enthralling, and that’s a reason this band and record are so noteworthy. By the way, release date isn’t until the 26th, but since this is our last week of reviews for the year, we’re hitting it now. So, be patient if trying to order.

“Asphodel” starts the album and is the longest track, running 14:14. Angular riffs get charging before the guitars begin bruising, and odd melodies make you tilt your head. The track then tears itself apart with mind-bending leads warping reality before things go cold, and the guitars begin trickling like a cold rain. The stretch keeps going until about the six-minute mark when harsh cries explode in the night sky, the guitars bleed melody, and the tempo pounds way. The music keeps flooding with extreme force, with the riffs having no mercy until there’s a sudden halt. Thunder fills the sky, birds begin to call, and the track slowly bleeds out before rushing back in, if only for a few moments.

“Decursio” spills right into the scene, causing a total panic, as cries burst, and we’re headed right for tornadic hell. The growls rumble and crush, while the music thrashes maniacally, and then the vocals take on an animalistic quality. The tempo bruises, as you’re locked into a dizzying fury that helps the chaos rise. Cries are buried beneath it all, with the song coming to a smearing, spiraling end. “Aedis Invia” closes the record with electric jolts and a tempo that reminds of old, ’90s-style indie rock, with buzzsaw vocals tearing into its mid-section. The track rustles and blisters, with noise rising over the top before the song goes clean and numbing. You might find yourself drifting in thought, with the music literally making your ears rattle (first time I heard this section, I thought something was wrong with me) before it goes back to calm. Slowly, the pace intensifies, with guitars jangling and catching fire, causing your heart to race before it all ends with birds chirping and you wondering what just happened.

Serpent Column continue to expand the definition and scope of black metal, and “Invicta” is a record that might take a few visits before it fully forms inside your brain. This duo isn’t going to lead you by the arm anywhere and instead are going to force you to explore their darkened borders. You’ll be better for it, though, as it’ll push your own understanding of what black metal can be and perhaps make you a more diverse thinker along the way.

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