Serpent are a young – make that ridiculously so – thrash band from the historic market town of Cookstown (best known for its amazing sausages and having the widest high street in the British Isles!), in that part of Norn Iron known as being “west of the Bann”, and therefore perceived by us big city folk as being just beyond the furthest edge of civilisation: the sort of place ancient cartographers used to dismiss with the phrase “Here Be Dragons” in a bid to dissuade the God-fearing folk of yore from venturing into such a dangerous wilderness, possibly never to return.
All joking aside, I first crossed paths a number of months ago, when the quartet ventured out of the backwoods (OK, I’ll stop it now – or maybe not) to make their Belfast debut: it was not the most auspicious of introductions, as the crowd was woefully sparse and the band were visibly nervous, to the point that they had virtually zero stage presence – and, before anyone thinks I’m having a dig, I shared my views with the band immediately after the show, and they took the comments in the constructive spirit in which they were meant, as shown by the fact that they have stayed in touch over the intervening period.
One thing which had struck me that night was the band’s undoubted musical ability, and this debut four-track EP is an admirable demonstration of same – if only it showed a bit more originality…
The problem is that it all sounds a bit too like early Megadeth and Slayer mixed together: the riff to the title track is straight off ‘Angel Of Death’, while the other tracks are also out of the pre-Rubin era King and co., right down to vocalist Oran McGuckin’s uncanny imitation of Tom Araya’s barking style, especially on opener ‘Myriad Truths’ and it’s book ender, ‘Parasite’s Eve’.
Where the band do come more into their own are on the instrumental breaks: if the main riffs and hooks are all very predictable, then what happens elsewhere in the songs is almost the antithesis, especially when guitarist Graham McKinstry is given the freedom to just express himself: OK, his style is very reminiscent of a young Kirk Hammett – no more so than on the title track and ‘Envenomation’, but he certainly knows his way around the fretboard and he plays with commitment and passion.
Despite the criticisms, this is a worthy start from a young band giving it their all and proof that there is an impressive young crop of new bands starting to make themselves heard on the Norn Iron metal scene.
- Myriad Truths
- Parasite’s Eve
Serpent play RocKD, with Katabolisis and Zia Regime, at Limelight 2, Belfast, on Saturday February 9th: http://www.facebook.com/events/247236188742001/