Some might say that production values in metal is a double-edged sword far as opinions go. Some prefer sharper edges, some prefer rawer pastures, some prefer clean. Some prefer nigh-sterile compression, others prefer a dynamic sound. No matter which one you might favor over the others, there is one undeniable fact that how it sounds can make a difference in how you receive it. Thing is, production may be just one of the pieces, but it is a very important one mainly because it has a direct and undeniable effect on the very essence of the music – the wrong production with the right album gives you a turd and no matter the amount of polish applied, it will remain what it is.
If that seems too theoretical, here’s the more simplified gist of what I am trying to say: if you mix your death metal album like it’s synthwave, then you get a disaster. Today, that disaster is called The Serpent Insignia. It’s the new album by Coffin Birth and it is an unfortunate byproduct of the Loudness War.
Listen, I’ll be honest: I find this album to be damn near unlistenable because of its godforsaken mix. The main suspect is the kick, which seems to be sidechained to the guitars. What this means is, whenever the kick sounds, the guitars go silent for the duration of the kick’s peak. This is called “ducking.” The guitars duck the kick like nobody’s business. Given that this is death metal, the drums are kick-heavy. This results in a choppy, stuttering sound in the guitars that robs the riffs of their flow. Yes, The Serpent Insignia‘s riffs are constantly interrupted by the drums (and not on purpose, this isn’t tech metal.)
The last time I heard this particular inclination in a mix was GosT’s Possessor, which had the entire sound ducking the kick on the more “metal-adjacent” tracks… All this isn’t helped by the deathcore-like downtuning of the guitars (so much so that the low chugs register more like something you’d hear on a djent album), the overpolished sound of them and the annoying lo-mid screech heard during the chugging parts.
Because of this, I find the sound of The Serpent Insignia repulsive, and I don’t mean that in the sense that its atmosphere or emotive essence evokes feelings of usually welcome disgust – I mean I despise how it sounds. Interesting enough, though, this album is still easier on the ears than the latest Bloodbath record, so that is quite an achievement, but it’s still overblown and overproduced (and wrongly overproduced at that)
At the end of the day, I can’t overlook the issues with the sound because I don’t much see the point of a death metal album where the riffs aren’t having a stuttering fit every other half second. But you might find something worthwhile, or even dig it. I suggest you take a listen and make up your own mind because for me, The Serpent Insignia is an album I’d rather forget.
Marco Mastrobuono – Bass
Davide Billia – Drums
Giulio Moschini – Guitars
Francesco Paoli – Guitars
Frank Calleja – Vocals
01. Throne of Skulls
02. The 13th Apostle
03. Godless Wasteland
04. The Red Sky Season
05. Christ Infection Jesus Disease
06. From the Dead to the Dead
07. Casket Ritual
09. The Serpent Insignia
10. Zombie Anarchy