Saint Deamon – League of the Serpent Review

Sweden’s Saint Deamon aren’t quite a household name in the Euro-power scene, at least partly due to their lagging career productivity. They started out well, making a good impression with their 2008 debut and rapid follow-up, 2009s very good Pandeamonium, but then they dropped off the face of the Earth. 10 years later they made an unexpected comeback with 2019s Ghost, and now in comparatively short order, they return with fourth album, League of the Serpent. Led as always by the powerhouse vocals of Jan Thore Grefstad (ex-Highland Glory), Saint Deamon have a potent weapon in their arsenal. To their credit, they’ve always been successful at crafting the kind of material that let Grefstad shine, as that’s where their bread is buttered and the money gets made. There are a collection of ace moments in their back catalog due to his epic pipes, and a Euro-power fan comes to a Saint Deamon release looking for more Jan Thore thunder. Can League of the Serpent deliver that sweet cobra venom for the soul without clogging the arteries with chronic cheese overload? Off to League Night we go.

It’s quickly apparent that the core style of Saint Deamon hasn’t changed and League of the Serpent delivers by-the-numbers Euro-power in the vein of Hammerfall, Nocturnal Rites, and Manimal with occasional flashes of Lost Horizon bombast and excess. Opener “At Break of Dawn” is a fairly generic slice of power metal anchored by a mid-paced chug and carried by Jan Thore’s excellent vocals. It’s his performance that elevates the song from stock to entertaining, though only by the narrowest of margins. It’s tame but enjoyable, featuring mild medieval folk influences. Fortunately from there, Saint Deamon kick things up a few notches energy-wise. The title track brings more classic power thunder though it too borders on safe and standard issue. The heavier guitar lines help however and a good chorus strongly delivered sets things right. The better cuts include the anthemic “The Final Fight” and the more epic-sized “Lord of the Night,” both benefiting from decently catchy choruses. The latter reminds me quite a bit of the recent Manimal material and Jan Thore gets to stretch his voice a bit more, which is always a big plus.

The band manage to inject decent to good choruses in most of the songs, providing payoff and hooks. The strong Lost Horizon vibe in “Lost in Your Sin” is a standout moment, and “Gates of Paradise” sounds like modern Kamelot, replete with canned symphonics. Even the mega-cheesy “Load Your Cannons” manages to snag the ear, despite sounding like something Running Wild wrote and then immediately discarded. The biggest issue undermining League of the Serpent is how generic it all sounds. The entire package is pure off-the-shelf Euro-power and you’ve heard every trick and treat a million times before. The band is talented enough to overcome this malaise (barely), but it’s still a flaw that saturates every moment here.

Saint Deamon live and die by the regal vocal cords of Jan Thore Grefstad and luckily, he’s in top form here. He’s one of the best power metal vocalists out there and it’s almost impossible to dislike his singing. Though I have issues with the underlying music, Jan forces me to come around with his powerful crooning and urgent wailing. His vocal hooks are plentiful enough to make the material stick and helps the album breeze right by. Take Jan out of the mix and this thing would likely fall down a hole fast. Toya’s guitar work is quite good, though I dislike the nu-metal-esque guitar tone he adopts on the heavier songs. It sounds like something off a Mudvayne album and that’s no way to go through life, saints.

League of the Serpent is a good Euro-power album with fun moments, but it’s definitely stuck in tier two, suffering from generic writing and a failure to push the envelope creatively. It’s also a case study on how a good vocalist can elevate average material. I want more from Saint Deamon than I’ve been getting since they reemerged from limbo. I hope next time we get something bigger, bolder and more inspired. In the meantime, I suppose this snake cult will do.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: AFM
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 21st, 2023

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