Although their combined members’ stints in long-running misery merchants Unearthly Trance and Ramesses undoubtedly qualifies New York’s Serpentine Path as a bona-fide underground metal supergroup, the recent addition of Winter guitarist Stephen Flam to their ranks has ensured that their extreme credentials are in no doubt. But this has by no means been an appointment based on background kudos alone; Flam has fitted into the group like a broadsword in the hand of a skeletal wraith like the one which adorns the cover of “Emanations”; a forty-four minute crawl through the nether regions of filthy, unwashed doom-death.
While the residue of the previous bands lingers like the stench of a forgotten crypt; this is no mere re-tread of former glories; the ominous tint of psychedelia that imbued guitarist Tim Bagshaw’s wretched tones in yesteryear has largely been excised in favour of a more gnarled, crunching heft that recalls fellow writhers in murk Autopsy and Asphyx rather than the purple, smoke stained hues of his other former band Electric Wizard. This coupled with Flam’s simplistic, driving riffs give the likes of the opening double-punch of ‘Essence of Heresy’ and House of Worship’ a menacing, straightforward bite; akin to being methodically stabbed to death in a backwoods shack instead of being slowly broken on the rack.
That doesn’t mean that the band haven’t forgotten how to dirge. Not by a long stretch, as the tortuous gloom of ‘Claws’ drowns the listener in stygian darkness with frequent pauses in the rhythm ensuring that nerves are frayed and patience is thoroughly tested. This continues with the more deathly outpourings of ‘Disfigured Colossus’ which even has something approaching a catchy refrain buried somewhere in there amid the rotting melodies and pounding drums courtesy of Darren Verni whose desperate hits call to mind a benighted plague victim buried alive in some desolate rural graveyard, overseen by vocalist Ryan Lipynsky in full-on demonic priest mode; his throat perpetually on the verge of collapsing before “Emanations” reaches its dismal end.
Certainly not the heaviest album doing the rounds, this second effort is far more concerned with the slower side of death metal rather than burying the listener under a succession of one-note downstrokes as so many are wont to do. That means we get actual well thought-out riffs and songs that actually go somewhere rather than just collapsing in on themselves. A bit more variety wouldn’t hurt, but as previously mentioned, the addition of Flam has already raised the bar, and provided “Emanations” with the necessary staying power required in the horror-haunted realms Serpentine Path have made their own.