There are times where I suspect that this website exerts some sort of observer effect on the bands we review. AMG writers have had several interactions with musicians that likely influenced their output, and at least one band that seems to have reunited for no reason other than being in a 90’s Metal Weirdness column here. This brings me to international tech-death collective Serocs, whose album The Next was critiqued here a couple years ago. I’d swear that the band used that review as some sort of death metal performance review, because their follow-up And When The Sky Was Opened addresses just about every issue I had with The Next, with extremely positive results.
For starters, the band seems to have focused their sound significantly. The Dying Fetus-esque pit fodder riffs have almost completely disappeared, as the band hones in on the more technical aspects of their sound. Cryptopsy and Gorguts are still valid reference points, as the band parlays those influences into complex, sometimes lengthy compositions (two of the tracks here are in the 8-minute range). Some sections, particularly in closing track “For Nothing,” could be loosely defined as “progressive,” referencing the aforementioned Gorguts and even Steve DiGiorgio-era Death at times.
This doesn’t mean the band’s sound has become one-dimensional, however. Witness the fluid neoclassical soloing in “Solitude,” courtesy of new lead guitarist Phil Tougas. The dissonant clean guitar that weaves in and out of the 8-minute epic “When the Ground Swallows Us…” is a welcome change of pace, as is bassist Mike Poggione’s effect-laden solo in “Them.” None of these elements are necessarily surprising or even out of place, but they’re an interesting expansion on Serocs‘ sound.
Thankfully, all this artistic growth and progression has not caused the band to lose sight of their greatest strength: giant, disgusting, vomitous riffs. Opener “And So It Begins” crams a seemingly impossible number of them into a 3-minute track, getting faster and more insane as it goes on. There’s a groove riff in “When the Ground Swallows Us…” that is also brilliant, using pick squeals and sour notes to great effect. And the title track contains a brief appearance of a fantastic trem picked section that might be my favorite on the entire record.
My grievances with The Next‘s weak audio quality have also been handily solved by none other than the legendary Neil Kernon (Nile, Nevermore, Hall & Oates), who handles mixing duties this time around. Kernon wisely places the rhythm guitars as the foundation of the sound, putting those ugly, dissonant riffs up front while creating greater clarity overall. While the snare drum may sound somewhat questionable, the record overall is a surprisingly pleasant listen, and a vast improvement over its predecessor in the audio department. The band keeps the album length at a respectable 35-ish minutes, long enough to get its point across but short enough to avoid wearing out its welcome.
And When The Sky Was Opened is a considerable leap forward, both musically and presentation-wise. The tech-death genre may be somewhat saturated at this point, but Serocs prove that they have something to offer, even in this crowded field. If you’re a fan of any of the bands mentioned above (sans Hall & Oates perhaps), this record may be well worth your time.