Supergroups are almost always a tricky endeavor. It’s inevitably impossible to not have incredible expectations attached to them, especially when they involve members of some of Metal Blade Records’ biggest acts like Killswitch Engage, Cannibal Corpse, and The Black Dahlia Murder. Add to that the fact that Serpentine Dominion has been in talks for almost five years now in some shape or form, and it’d seem almost impossible for this project to live up to the expectations fans have built up for it. Thankfully, this self-titled debut doesn’t falter and delivers a concise yet brutally-appropriate slab of melodic death metal that feels like each of these three musicians’ best work in quite some time.
At just nine tracks and 27 minutes, Serpentine Dominion is a collection of barnburners delivered at blistering tempos. It’s an album that’s got no time for proggy bullshit, lengthy solos or needlessly-indulgent song structures. Adam D, who wrote the album’s bulk of material, understands exactly who he’s working with, and has catered his riffs perfectly to fit both the machine-like proficiency of Shannon Lucas’ drumming and the ever-impressive vocal delivery of George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher. In fact, a lot of these songs from a structural standpoint could work on a Killswitch record, except that they’re delivered with a much higher sense of urgency and rage than just about anything you’d find said band’s catalog. Tracks like “Vanquished unto Thee” and “Jagged Cross Legions” are downright furious but still pack in choruses that can be instantly hummed back after just one listen.
While the album does have a much more melodic edge than what you’d expect from a Cannibal Corpse record, this is still an incredibly technical and riff-heavy record. It’s been revealed in interviews that Adam D wanted nothing more than to craft a record centered around the iconic vocal delivery of Corpsegrinder, and Serpentine Dominion does just that. “Divide, Conquer, Burn and Destroy” is a perfect example of this, as it contains all the classic elements of Cannibal’s repertoire. Relentless triplets for Corpsegrinder to follow along with, a bout of crushing chugs, reliance on hooks…it’s all there. Thankfully though, Serpentine Dominion isn’t just a collection of pure Cannibal worship, as the occasional inclusion of clean vocals keeps things from feeling too homogenous and downright brutal. This record does an excellent job of combining seemingly-disparate elements into a shockingly-cohesive piece of work.
Sure, this record may be shorter than Reign in Blood and may feel a little bit too short considering the amount of time we’ve been teased with the possibilities of this project, but Serpentine Dominion is simply undeniable. It’s pissed as hell, fast as all get out, and ultimately one of the most fun things metal fans can possibly encounter in 2016. It’s always nice to hear Shannon Lucas deliver some of the tightest death metal drumming in the modern era, there’s no getting past Corpsegrinder’s impeccable vocal delivery, and Adam D is shredding harder than he ever has before. Here’s hoping this group becomes more than just a one-off and continues to expand on this already-impressive sound.
Serpentine Dominion is available October 28 via Metal Blade.