It should be well established that we have a pretty loose definition for the word heavy around here. It doesn’t have to be music that destroys your mind and body with volume and speed; it just has to be something that weighs massively on you and makes you feel something that impacts your heart and guts no matter how the music sounds.
While metal comprises 99 percent of what we do around here, we have a soft spot for dark waves of Americana, dusty music, folk, murder ballads, that type of thing. Sterling Serpent’s lineup includes members from other bands that do delve in metal, but here, they create music more along the lines of, say, Handsome Family, as their work drips blackness from every seam, and it feels the product of deep psychological wounds that have no chance of healing. Their debut self-titled EP is a four-track appetizer that hopefully is the first steps toward a full-length effort that I’d devour whole. Comprised of members of Bell Witch, King Dude, Serpentent, and Terminal Fuzz Terror, the quartet of David Alexander Nelson, Joey Roaringblood D’Auria, Anne K. O’Neill, and Dylan Desmond bring a shadowy ambiance and cold dreams that gnaw at you for days.
“Violet” starts things off with a dusky western feel and the deep singing from Nelson pushing the plot. O’Neill harmonizes with him, and at times, this song reminds me of Murder By Death. “Hold up your head, ignore the others,” Nelson calls while the compelling chorus swells with the line, “Hold me tight, don’t you die,” as the song spirals out. “Eternity” echoes as steely guitars drip, and dual vocals give this song a haunting aura. “My name is eternal,” is wailed as the song kicks into higher gear, and the guitars awaken. Primal barks jostle spirits as the volume swirls, O’Neill’s voice chews into your muscle, and she speaks over the final moments. “Bones” is dusty with desert-style guitars, rich baritone vocals, and a spirited chorus that gets your bones going. The track gets heavier and more aggressive later, ending this short, but explosive song perfectly. Ballad “Evelyn” ends the album with acoustic rushes and echoes as Nelson sings and weaves his narrative, crooning, “My love is chronistic, but that was long ago.” Synth gazes over the song, the chorus rears its head again, and the track ends in gentle arms.
Sterling Serpent’s debut EP is a stirring, jarring adventure, the type of music I’d imagine listening to driving lonely highways in the middle of the night, with only my ghosts as companions. It’s not heavy in the classic sense when it comes to metal, but it sure weights down on you during the entire journey. This is music that enhances your loneliness, makes it sting inside, and oddly makes you feel a little more battle tested when your indulgence ends.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/SterlingSerpent
To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://www.van-records.de/