A quick search for the Rhône-Alpes region of France will point the inquisitive mind to the renowned peak of Mont Blanc, the world class vineyards around Lyon or the picturesque Lake Annecy; not towards a black/death metal band. Yet such is the variety of life in the modern age. Necrowretch is a black/death metal band hailing from the city of Valence in Rhône-Alpes region that, after seven years of existence, has released its second studio album under the name With Serpents Scourge. Not only does this album make absolutely no sense when considered within the big picture of its geographical surroundings, it also makes no sense in the big picture of where metal is in 2015 as an entire genre of music.
With Serpents Scourge is a thirty-five minute rehashing of the oldest forms of metal and the characteristics that came to define it. The album’s production is completely devoid of any fancy polishing which fits the un-nuanced writing. This is as straightforward and old school as it gets. The distortion tone on the guitar is gritty and abrasive with shameless treble levels. The vocals come off as a cross between early Scandinavian black metal and the more technically-inclined late 80s American thrash. On the other end of the spectrum, the drums are pounded with fervor while keeping a rather simplified approach. The ample use of blast beats and a variety of sharp, crunchy cymbals provides sustainable solidity throughout the album but it fails to stave off the inevitable tedium.
Right from the get-go, the opening track ‘Black Death Communion‘ features a rather awkward transition three minutes into it which makes a few bells go off. The title-track is a wall-of-sound type deal that holds water for five minutes and starts to reverse the effect of the album’s shaky start. The riffing on ‘The Bells of Evil Schism‘ is absolute old school worship but with enough grit to keep it from turning sterile while ‘He Thrones on Thy Sins‘ keeps the old school vibe going with a bit of Morbid Saint influence shining through. The rest of the album doesn’t capitalize on this momentum and it ends up going nowhere. The energetic riffing on ‘Even Death May Die‘ can’t save it from the poor vocals and the repetitiveness of the ending track ‘Mortem Ritu‘ leaves an air of indifference towards the album as a whole.
This self-proclaimed trio of ‘French Metal Necromancers’ isn’t presenting something to challenge a listener’s taste and make him/her think about the music. It’s a collection of good –not great– riffs executed by skilled professionals who have a clear vision of what they want their sound to be. Unfortunately, the best experience this album can provide is a fun listen that is reminiscent of early Scandinavian black metal, which will in turn persuade the nostalgic listener to go back and play Bathory’s Hammerheart or Enslaved’s Blodhemn for a real jolt of creativity and captivating viciousness. With Serpents Scourge may temporarily appeal to the emotional side of a listener but, after several spins, it fails to appeal to the mental side.
Necrowretch’s With Serpents Scourge gets…