Wicked Snakes - Lead Me To The SunWell, this was a nice surprise. At this time of year you can feel as though you’re being bombarded with Best Of’s and box-sets, and that the real new creative stuff has gone into hibernation until spring. Hurrah then for the rather good A Wolf At Your Door Records and this new EP from Staffordshire scenesters Wicked Snakes.

The four members have all been in other local bands but now sense that together in Wicked Snakes they really have the band to make strides. It’s hard to disagree. The most obvious comparison is the smart hardcore punk of Cancer Bats, but every song here has surprising little musical moments building extra layers of quality onto the strong melodies and songwriting. There’s a similar assimilation of styles as those Canadian road warriors but if anything Wicked Snakes are more diverse and experimental.

‘A Ceremony’ leads with a languid and lysergic intro, luring you into a doomy reverie and then… Bang! into a sort of upbeat hardcore jig of descending guitar lines and ascending vocals. It’s a strange but winning mix of the vicious and jaunty. Next up ‘Death Notes’ is a more dour and deathly dirge but still with strong melodies and an unexpected psychedelic blues guitar solo. Title track ‘Lead Me To The Sun’ is Cancer Bats made epic but strangely the spoken/sung vocal style of Luke Davis brings Eddie Argos of arch indie rockers Art Brut similarities to the fore. The pretty guitar lines over Henry Rollins-esque angst manage to stop me from expecting Davis to start shouting “We formed a band, look at us we formed a band!” !!

‘Cause/Effect’ is the album’s only real banger, but it carries with it an emotional heft missing from a lot of heavy music. It’s back to the slower material on ‘Cold Heart’ and ,again, slower doesn’t always suit Luke Davis‘ style. I feel he could have gone for clean vocals on most of this song, and occasionally the bark does slip and you can hear he has the potential to really mix it up in future. However, it is great that the band feel confident enough as songwriters not to hide behind speed and bluster.

The closing seven-minute ‘Choirs’ begins grungy and moves into a slow breakdown that could, again, have maybe benefited from clean vocals. But there are awesome ‘Powerslave’-style Egyptian guitar crescendos before diving back into a wicked grinding riff. I mentioned Iron Maiden with a wry smile as I’ve noticed on the band’s Facebook page that Luke Davis says he hates the band! Well, Luke, go check out ‘Powerslave’ to hear a band doing what you’re doing but over twenty years before! Of course, it’s only natural for young bands to rebel against the mainstream and you don’t get any more mainstream in metal terms than Iron Maiden. Anyway, back to ‘Choirs’ and the acoustic interlude near the end which leads into crushing, mid-paced death metal which nicely sums up their enormous promise.

This is a really exciting new band. Better add “Lead Me To The Sun” to your Christmas list.

Wicked Snakes – Facebook page