We all watch instinctively for the peaks of mountains, chapels, and whatever watchtower that’d give signal of new leadership. A wildly colored spout of smoke could be a new wretched pope, a sign of ‘promised land’ on shore, or a watchfire to warn of a Tolkien-worthy battle. In the three years I’d spent watching accidental fires rip across the hills of Santa Clarita, California whilst set in traffic for hours (upon hours) staring at the flailing columns of smoke and wind-blown fire rippling the sky with incredible heat it began to feel as if I were in a microcosm clairvoyant of The End. Unsustainable yet alluringly romantic in its deserted branches of ruin the desert in turmoil, aching to revive. Walled-off communities set beside Fallout worthy husk-worlds, each equally damned and enabled by the endless commute between ‘affordable’ housing towards opportunistic corruption. The torment felt endless up against the flames on the fringe of Los Angeles adjacent Hell but, the car always had air conditioning. Sitting comfortably in the seat of doom, undoing the self and the environment for the sake of existence, weighs heavy upon my forever crownless ‘self’. The dirge of life and the death resultant, a perpetually damned spirit, and my own escape from the land of fire and thieves springs to the tip of my mind as Melbourne, Australia based psychedelic doom band Holy Serpent sets the mind alight with an incredible bout of atmospheric pressure, their second album ‘Endless’, hulking upon me as if I’d been coming down from the most life-affirming high, ever.
If you’d not mind lifting the veil on the distortions of my own mind, the naked thought process of association upon my first listen of ‘Endless’ went something like this: Existential ‘coming down’ dirges, Sunny Day Real Estate‘s opening track for ‘The Rising Tide’, Catherine Wheel‘s soapy buzz on ‘Ferment’, a misguided detour towards ‘Pablo Honey’, and then the dreary all-in soul fuck that was Soundgarden‘s ‘Down on the Upside’. Finally, as the smoke cleared my mind landed upon Windhand‘s peak moments on ‘Soma’ with some clarity and there you’ll find the next logical step: Holy Serpent, who you should’ve already been all-ears upon starting with ‘Temples’ (2016). I’d discovered them by virtue of following RidingEasy Records who’d signed the band on around 2015 and issued their self-titled debut EP that same year. Their rock n’ doom dirge has developed into a modern down-tempo, high off their asses, psychedelic doom juiced haunt delivered with slow-motion soul. The enormity of their riffs delivers such a drain upon the ‘self’ while the vocals offer catharsis, a lift on high, a sensitive respite from the cold nights away from the sun and the storms. It might come as some surprise that the lyrics envision an oceanic theme while you’ll surely feel baked in the heat of ‘Endless’ roar.
If you’re looking for a wildly varied, all-in-one record that trips the light fantastic between many different styles you’re not going to find it in Holy Serpent‘s latest. This is an album that’d likely birthed from a moody jam, a hot streak of mid-paced rumbling that became more ornate and emotive as it developed naturally. In that sense ‘Endless’ is a lot of the same mood and pacing poured over with some beautifully evocative variations on a theme. It flows as one brilliant dirge that is one part “Blow Up the Outside World” and two parts Windhand with a hint of Yob in the fringes. There is a certain lineage you could trace back from early-to-mid Electric Wizard towards the generations of influence since, honing in on certain sonic characteristics and mutating with each step but the influence of 90’s stoney heavy rock informs the melodic values of the pieces more directly outside of perhaps “For No One”, one of the more directly stoner/doom metal pieces of the bulk. I was completely hooked from the moment I heard the first single, album opener “Lord Deceptor” which I’d described as a ‘pre-apocalyptic anxiety, a river of dread with a joyfully hallucinated croon atop its glowering doom riffed legs’ and that’d generally sum up my thoughts on the album in the sense that my expectations were met and the verve of that track introduces the vibe of the album in exactly the right fashion.
From the first listen to the twentieth listen and beyond ‘Endless’ sustains itself within my mind because it has a thought and extends it into a solid ~40 minute sea of movements that are related but not all the same. It is immersive as an experience and what nuance builds within its meditative, cathartic depth is often more insightful and genuinely expressed than other bands I’d compare Holy Serpent with. Easily one of the most redeeming and warming psychedelic doom/rock records I’ve spun this month that stands out as I begin to reminisce on the year thus far. Highly recommended. For preview purposes I’d suggest “Into the Fire” is a vacuum of glorious stasis for the restless soul and “Hourglass” will haunt in increasing waves.
Sail these astral seas. 4.0/5.0
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