Hyrgal – Serpentine (2018) REVIEW

Originally conceived in 2007 previous to Clément Flandrois’ inclusion as a guitarist in Svart Crown, Hyrgal was an outlet for his interest in the black metal arts. Though the success and demanding work of Svart Crown would quickly take priority, Hyrgal managed to release  a demo/split in 2008. I have not been able to track it down personally so I cannot speak to the evolution of ideas and skills across the last decade but I will say that his work in Svart Crown is tremendous yet ultimately completely separate from the style of Hyrgal‘s debut full-length ‘Serpentine’. This French-sung debut is a modern vision of pagan black metal that explores both the current atmospherics and the grandiose melodic heights of French black metal’s best.

Flandrois’ guitar work on ‘Serpentine’ is at once conceptually fluid and atmospheric in it’s restraint yet the core of the experience isn’t far-flung from what ‘cascadian’ black metal groups have evolved towards in recent years. Without the dissonance and avant-metal I’d expected after his work on ‘Abreaction’ the sound here is closer to post-melodic black metal without the thin or blurred sound. ‘Serpentine’ has as many volcanic wall-of-sound moments that are blasted-through as it does quiet, or at least thoughtfully riffed, ones.

The orthodox black metal darkness is felt most heavily in the fast and ripping drum compositions that employ a ‘low frills’ approach that give the guitar and vocals ample room to surge and shout above all else. The production on ‘Serpentine’ employs a healthy low-end, though, and though the bassist does little to stand out his presence is felt  throughout. The star of the show is the diversity found within the melodies of Flandrois’ guitar work. As often as he rests upon a jangling counter-point he finds an interesting rhythm that echoes the soft hand of Ulver‘s ‘Bergtatt’ as much as it does the occasional fury of Drudkh‘s ‘The Swan Road’. Yet neither comparison suggests the aggressive and full sound of ‘Serpentine’, which is as capable of thickened rhythms a la Walknut as it is the melodramatics of Falls of Rauros. ‘Serpentine’ should have great appeal to melodic black metal and atmospheric black metal fans alike and though it may seem unassuming initially, there is considerable depth to glean from it’s rhythms.

NOTE: This review is for the Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions LP issue of the album, the CD released through Naturmacht Productions last October, and Cassette through Solar Asceticists Productions in December.

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Artist Hyrgal
Type Album
Released March 23, 2018
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Genres

Survivors of oblivion. 3.5/5.0

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