Written by: Izzy
2019, I can pretty confidently say, was “the year of black metal” for me. Not only was the quantity of good black metal extremely high, but the quality of the best releases was unheard of. Normally every year I find maybe 3-5 albums in most of my favourite genres that I love and hold onto, but 2019 gave me TWELVE (12) black metal albums I’ve revisited since the year's end, some of them half a dozen times by now. Amongst those phenomenal albums was Serpent Column’s Mirror In Darkness, my first brush with the band, which certainly set my expectations high and they were quickly fulfilled by their EP/mini album Endless Detainment from earlier this year. I was blown away and already left extremely impressed, but clearly even that wasn’t enough for Serpent Column as shortly after it was followed up by their latest opus, and topic of today’s discussion, Kathodos.
Now, this won’t be exactly a review of both these albums, but consider it a Kathodos review with an Endless Detainment mini-review snuck in, because I don’t think it was a coincidence they were both released so close together. I think that these two albums are meant to be paired together. Let me explain: Mirror In Darkness was an incredibly intricately assembled album that took influence from many places, twisting and contorting it all into the virulent maelstrom we got. I think Endless Detainment and Kathodos together make up the core dichotomy present within Mirror In Darkness, constantly fighting each other for control but creating something beautiful from their dissension.
Endless Detainment represents Serpent Column’s love of chaos and dissonance, becoming a blistering torrent of guitar and vile breakdowns, equal parts vicious black metal and crushing mathcore, erupting as a piece of pure carnage that burns radiantly and quickly, not overstaying its welcome but making a ferocious statement all the same. It exists to overwhelm and destroy and leave you awestruck in its wake.
On the other hand, Kathodos represents Serpent Column’s knack for creating melody and atmosphere despite all the chaos. While it keeps their formula of complex and cutting black metal, it’s calmer and more collected in contrast to both and has an especially progressive tinge to it, quite reminiscent of Ulcerate in the ways they combine ambiance with technicality and aggression. It feels less harsh but more brooding and ominous, everything develops as a winding maze of riffs and torrential melodies swirling in your headphones.
Now, is this possibly just a crackpot theory? Absolutely, but it’s also a great premise on which to dissect these albums. While Endless Detainment was an amazing exercise in extremity, it leaves one feeling drained and fatigue but the end of its sonic onslaught, and it’s hard to write a review about something you love purely for how brutal and intense it is. There are only so many synonyms you can use before it just devolves into “this album makes my head hurt, I love it.” But Kathodos’ more honed and focused nature leaves much room to explore on repeat listens. It is absolutely crawling with minor details that you’ll only uncover as you spend more time with it, you appreciate the subtle complexities woven between the guitar and the drums, the textures in moments of ambiance, the way the instruments shriek and wail, and especially for myself I came to greatly appreciate Kathodos’ striking but understated melodic tinge, and the means by which each track unfolds in and out of one another.
I don’t think any amount of deliberation could help me choose between these two, as I adore them both immensely and equally, easily being some of the best black metal not only of this year but off the past several years, dare I say perhaps even some of the best of the upcoming decade. But only time can tell if my heart shall sway one way or the other, until then I can only suggest you give both Kathodos and Endless Detainment your attention, because I can guarantee whatever you put into them they’ll give back in spades.
Serpent Column - Kathodos was released Sept. 30th, 2020
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!