They say variety is the spice of life, and that is certainly the case when it comes to music. In metal especially, being repetitive or repetitive in the wrong amount can make or break albums… or bands. Often times genres can stagnate or bands can get too bogged down with genre conventions to break out. While there is something to be said about bands that focus on turning the wheel well than reinventing it, that, too, has certain limits.
Blood of Serpents’ sophomore effort, Sulphur Sovereign, is a case in point.
Blood of Serpents is a Swedish black metal band that formed in 2012. They released their first full-length, Black Dawn, in 2014. Four years went by and now, we are graced with their sophomore outing, Sulphur Sovereign. As can be understood, they play black metal – this means dank, dark gravesite atmosphere, blast beats, harsh vocals and tremolo picked riffs.
If that seems too simple a description, I’ll put it to you this way: there is very little in the album that description doesn’t cover.
Start to finish, Sulphur Sovereign offers those few of our favourite things and not much more. The songwriting is textbook, so much so that if a non-metal fan asks you what black metal is, you can just play a song, any song, from this album and say, “there, that’s black metal.” While this isn’t exactly a bad thing and is borderline turning the wheel well enough, the utter lack of variety brings the album down.
There are moments of songs trying to break the mold. As the Temple Burns makes a passable attempt, but gets pulled right back in. The only other time when this happens is in the penultimate track. Prophet of a False Faith is an amazing breath of fresh air precisely because it takes a step away from the relentlessly one-note tracks that came before it, but it is too little, too late because by this point, you’re blast beaten and tremolo picked out. Also, since the closing track, A Void Between Worlds lapses back into the same thing, it negates this little gem. Never in my life did I think I would be praising a flow-breaking song for being just that, but there it is.
All this is quite a shame, really, because atmosphere-wise, Sulphur Sovereign has it on lock. It’s fire and brimstone, its cavernous depths of Hell waiting for you. It’s the bloody esophagus of the abyss. But atmosphere alone cannot make or break an album and Blood of Serpents do not break the mold on that front.
At the end of the day, if you’re heavily into black metal, you might dig it. That’s it – others should look elsewhere.
Thomas Clifford – vocals
Fredrik Nilsson – guitars
Kristian Roupe – guitars
Benny Åkeson – bass
Christoffer Andersson – drums
01. Mater Tenebris
02. In Darkness, Brotherhood
03. Devil’s Tongue
04. Evictor of Christ
05. As the Temple Burns
07. As Nocturnal Dimensions Beckon
08. Upon Waters Dark
09. Prophet of a False Faith
10. A Void Between Worlds