NIGHT COBRA – Dawn of the Serpent (2022)REVIEW

All of the proper cheesy empowering things you are supposed to feel when listening to outsized arena rock in a pub metal setting, all of the spirited working class weekender glory that’d passed its torch from the late 70’s unto the early 80’s world of punk-adjacent traditional heavy metal development — well, a shitload of all that manifests under the spell of Houston, Texas-based quintet Night Cobra‘s debut full-length. ‘Dawn of the Serpent‘ is an anthemic Gibson-esque future dystopian tech-noir tear, a thread of cyber-fantastic kitsch heavy personae made real by the existential tone of its narrative delivery. You won’t need an overly nostalgic movement in mind nor any sort of too-elite niche to enjoy these fellowes work, though, just some certain love for heavy metal anthems with bit of rebellious oxidization around the edges.

From the metal jacket pin styled logo to the 80’s PC game box art worthy serpent-decimated vision of earth depicted in the Adam Burke illustrated cover art frontman, promoter and former Venomous Maximus guitarist Christian Larson (Necrofier) not only displays taste in late NWOBHM influence the world over in his curation of Night Cobra but sage understanding of how those ideas translate to modern works which land ‘in touch’ with the constancy of today’s NWOTHM lifer, an outpouring spread thicker worldwide this last decade or two. Their sound might not line up squarely with the Neat Records-era of metalpunk and speed metal-edged antics of the early-to-mid 80’s, as many have suggested, but if we jump back to their 2020 EP ‘In Praise of the Shadow‘ the slightly more compressed production and less tuneful vocal performances do somewhat justify this thought. We can nonetheless still see and hear the artists early 80’s heavy metal intent in both releases; Any further distinction will boil down to the vocal arrangements and melodies explored throughout, which tend towards a sort of gloomier early-to-mid 80’s southern California hardcore punk-affected sense of anthemic construct, dire and verbose without falling into gothic/deathrock schmaltz.

Introducing the album to the public with a video clip for lead single “Mortal DangerNight Cobra put this Side B set edge into 80’s power/speed metal wasn’t the obvious choice from my point of view, perhaps for the sake of its flash heavy leads and generally upbeat speed which showcases Larson‘s vocals in their most standard mode, gilded by gang shouts and in emphasis of the larger progression of the song. At that particular point in the full listen the performative range of the band has been revealed and the song itself isn’t so much anticlimactic but, nearby riding off into the sunset. If you were sold on vibe of “Mortal Danger” the entirety of the album is similarly pained, selling a sort of drastic situation conveyed by way of classic 80’s heavy metal theatric as seen through post-millennium neon-eyed revisionism. This is likewise echoed on the much stronger second single “The Neuromancer’s Curse” and its Commodore 128 lookin’ animated music video, a piece which acts as the hinge between sides and a general peak of the full listen’s action. These are fine introductory pieces but if I had to venture a guess it only made sense to hold back on revealing the absolute power of Side A, which provides the major momentum and profundity of ‘Dawn of the Serpent‘.

The post-millennium future wars of technology, transhumanism and environmental decimation depicted in the speculative fiction of the 1980’s compared to our reality today might loosely line up with some creative license applied yet Night Cobra‘s themes are largely in keeping with nostalgia for the cyberpunk-adjacent futuristic dystopian fantasy of the past. The same could be said of how we hear their take on NWOBHM influenced metal through nowadays NWOTHM revisionism, sitting with Cobra‘s ‘Warriors of the Dead‘ and Blade Runner‘s ‘Hunted‘ aren’t exact matches for what ‘Dawn of the Serpent’ accomplishes musically but the spirit of old is captured nonetheless and… well I’d say right down, again, to the dominance of Side A in terms of interest with “Run the Blade” being an appropriately over the top opening piece showing Larson‘s range having developed since ‘In Praise of the Shadow‘ to incorporate higher notes which become more prominently used on what I’d consider the true sub four minute radio single, “The Serpent’s Kiss”. This is where the album begins to soar for my taste and though the vocal patternation doesn’t vary too wildly on the whole of the ~34 minute run each of the first five songs serve some manner of distinction in quick succession.

Harmonized guitar solos, accelerated pace, and I’d say one of the better overall peak Maiden-era guitar melodies on the album make “Black Venom Dreams” the highlight of the album for my own taste and it helps that this is where the vocals take the biggest chances in creating a sort of narrative structure. This is where I’d hope Night Cobra venture more often in the future, as much as I think their bread and butter modus should be the anthemic focus which drives ‘Dawn of the Serpent‘. I suppose that takes us to the most profound point to be made here, these guys already sound like seasoned pros rarin’ to get back to the grind after offloading a previous project’s baggage, a well-honed traditional heavy metal band striking at an inspired iron seemingly beyond their years. It is the only trad metal record to catch my ear and stick on repeat in ages, for what it is worth. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Dawn of the Serpent
LABEL(S):High Roller Records,
RELEASE DATE:February 11th, 2022

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.