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Swallow The Venom

Svart (2018)
Rating: 5/10

I still don’t know where I fully stand with regards to Witchthroat Serpent and the myriad of other Electric Wizard-cum-stoner / occult bands with their “nostalgic” album covers and horror-fused misery. Maybe I’m just an old fashioned purist who still gets high on authentic doom metal. But unfortunately I find so much of this sort of “new” stuff derivative, because although well packaged the sounds within rarely move me.

Swallow The Venom is the third slab from the French trio and kicks off with ‘Feu Sacré’, a short suspenseful introduction of eerie female chanting straight out of a Jean Rollin vampire movie.

Then we’re into the quicksand monolith of the seven-minute ‘Lucifer’s Fire’, a rather predictably lumbering fuzzed up occult drug-fest built upon highly fluffed rolling riffs and the epic calls of Fredrik Bolzann – although for me his cries, although mournful, are somewhat as unremarkable as the weighty groove. And that just about sums up Witchthroat Serpent and a whole host of “scene” followers; the music often rather uneventful in its boulder-like shifts resulting in overlong heaps of the morose which flirt with psychedelia and slo-mo banality.

‘Pauper’s Grave’ is a slow-moving slug of a track aimed at wizards and warlocks who still think it’s hip to drink beer that tastes like gravy. I can’t argue with the weight, but I’ll squabble all day long with regards to the absolutely bland direction this trio takes. Or maybe I’ve just not smoked enough weed in my time to appreciate this drab, dreary and one dimensional snail trail.

Yeah, the band does throw in flecks of subtlety, an emotive injection every now and then to create atmosphere, but it’s all just so darn boring in its cumbersome manner. ‘The Might Of The Unfailing Source’ is despondent in its riff. Indeed, how can anyone get high on such a dirge of dullness?

Witchthroat Serpent, from their daft moniker to their routine sound, are the ordinary boys of a genre bursting with sound-alikes; eager beavers of the sludge-lord rising revelling in down tuned fuzz wafting of Electric Wizard-isms. But very soon it all begins to melt into one great blubbery mess bereft of identity whereby the drummer seems to be prodding between power naps, and just like the last watery opus Sang-Dragon (2016), Swallow The Venom pretty much buries the bass in its crusade for mid-paced regularity.

‘Scorpent Serpion’ trudges in tired fashion, while ‘Hunt For The Mountebank’ tiredly slips straight out of fashion and for me the vocals just become a grate on the grey matter; cries of woe that bore me to tears as another tidal wave of fuzzed riffage sweeps into the ears like hot spoons of treacle.

According to the press release for this album, “Witchthroat Serpent have expanded their weaponry and truly mastered their art”, but there was no art to master such is the one-dimensional glumness of ‘Red Eyed Albino’ and route-one persistence of ‘No More Giant Octopuses’. But silly song titles aside, this is an album that goes nowhere fast. Although I’m sure some fans will argue that’s its point, which in turn then makes it a rather pointless and derivative entry in the annals of the ever-annoying stoner-cum-doom self-indulgence.

Neil Arnold

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