Honestly, nine times out of 10, I don’t like choirs in metal, especially black metal. They’re usually written as some sort of afterthought, used to give the music a faintly Gothic vibe. This means that their tones are usually artificial and, even worse, their composition is nothing interesting. However, when they’re used well, as a basic part of a sound’s formula, they can be extremely effective at conveying the grandeur that black metal tries to get across. We’ve already had one band this year who used choir-like vocals in their music to an incredible degree: the mighty Helfró and their equally mighty debut release. Now we have a second one to add to that rarefied and illustrious rank: Sinistral King.
Featuring members of Vredehammer, Unlight, and Triumph of Death, Sinistral King channel a kind of dark, foreboding black metal on their debut record, Serpent Uncoiling. Part of that coldness, an inhuman aloofness and distance, is conveyed through the excellent choirs replete throughout the album. These ethereal vocals can be heard in two distinct mode: one of them is the interlude or, as in the case of the opening track from the album, “Serpent Uncoiling”, as an outro. Here, they stand alone, in a more traditional role within black metal. But listen to the choirs on the track’s end for example: they are much better composed and fleshed out then you usually hear on such interludes. The choir’s other mode is even more interesting: they can be heard chanting in the background of the main, loud, and aggressive riffs of the track, adding more depth and counterpoint to the guitars.
The end result is a larger than life sound, gesturing towards the alien, othering gaze of what beast uncoils in the depths of Sinistral King’s music. And the music follows suit; whether it is the deep, cavernous vocals or the pummeling riffs, Sinistral King are all about a kind of black metal that’s always aggressive, direct, and heavy. You won’t find much atmosphere here, though there are some tremolo picked riffs going off on the background. This is, perhaps, where the death metal tinges of Sinistral King’s brand of black metal can most be heard: the guitars are boisterous instead of mournful, immediate instead of far-off and wistful, full-toned and present instead of haunting and abrasive. This lands Serpent Uncoiling more of that size we alluded to earlier, that sense of being in the presence of something dominating and overpowering.
And that’s perhaps the best way to describe this album: dominating and overpowering. Serpent Uncoiling, much like some of the bands from which their members hail, are all about powerful, violent delivery. But in order to create contrast, and thus interest, they use tools like the aforementioned choirs. And we only highlighted one track; there are plenty of other amazing moments on the album, like another beautiful choir section on “Nahemoth” (“growls” in Hebrew, in case you care), ushered in by an echoing piano part and leading directly back into the unbridled aggression of a main riff. And there’s even more, to be honest, like soaring, honest solos and brilliant drums.
Just listen to this album when it drops tomorrow, OK? It’s one of the finer, more interesting, and just plain demolishing black metal albums I’ve ever heard in a long time. It rocks.
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Sinistral King’s Serpent Uncoiling releases tomorrow, April 24th. You can head on over to the Bandcamp page above to pre-order it. Stay frosty.