Where am I? I don’t know this place. A cold breeze flows through the darkened forest, powdered snow whirling up from white capped tree trunks. This is not a path I’ve walked before. There barely seems to be a path at all, in fact; it winds through the trees so much, the sliver of moon barely grants enough light not to trip over outgrowing roots. I trundle on, listening to the confusing rhythmic sounds around me, jangling chords interweaving with wild, uncontrolled bellowing. Where is this sound coming from? In my confusion, I stumble, and barely manage to keep from falling by grabbing an old, weathered wooden signpost, slick with moss and snow. There’s barely enough light to read what the sign says: Serpens Luminis – Bright Euphoria. “I shouldn’t be here,” I mumble. “Muppet should be handling this. How did I get caught up in this?”
Random grabs and promo scarcity are fickle and cruel, that’s how. This time fate handed me Serpens Luminis’ debut Bright Euphoria, which is miles removed from my nearest musical comfort zones. Indeed, its very goal seems to be discomfort. The Swiss band mixes post-metal flow of consciousness with the pummeling blasts of death metal and the icy desperation of dissonant black metal, and filter it through the ramblings of a raving madman. If this description reminds you of Deathspell Omega, you’d be right on the money, as the French appear to have been a major influence on Serpens Luminis. The resulting album is a brief yet harrowing experience, comprising just 3 tracks that span a succinct 27 minutes.
The harrowing part is primarily expressed through the vocals, which regularly have several layers of various screams and wails crawling on top of each other, with the top layer provided by a man named Florian Jacot-Descombes but who shall hereafter be referred to as The Insane Cultist Prophet. He runs the gamut from ragged, half-clean shouts to hysterical shrieks and sets much of the tone. The riffs on the album are a turbulent sort, like a multitude of vortexes created by a fast-flowing river, overlaid with melodies in jangling dissonance that deepen the feeling of dread and discomfort, and the gear shift for the rhythm section is perpetually stuck on high. The latter does suffer from some production woes, though; the drums in particular do not sound nearly as vibrant as the DR score seems to indicate, instead consisting of dry, flat thwacks and cracks.
I’ve done a lot of describing and not much opinionating so far, you may have noticed, and the reason for that is quite simple. I feel really quite lost around this album. Moment to moment, it’s a good experience, the varied vocals in keeping with the maelstrom of madness of the frantic drumming and churning riffs that hover around the edge of dissonance. But despite a dozen or so spins, despite the mere three tracks, drop me anywhere on the album and I could not tell you which of the three I’d be on. When I had Bright Euphoria on repeat for any length of time, I would regularly have to check which track I was listening to. Maybe people with more experience with Deathspell Omega or its closest family members will have an easier time navigating through the labyrinthine chaos. Maybe we’re not supposed to get a handle on the music, just be dragged along like a snowman in an avalanche.
Whichever the case, it doesn’t make for music that is in and of itself memorable. What sticks around after listening is the atmosphere, which is very capably executed; The Insane Cultist Prophet and chaotic, layered riffs take care of that. With that in mind, this is definitely worth a spin for those inclined towards dissonance and moods of creeping dread. Personally, however, I prefer just a few more road signs when I’m dropped into the dark frosty forest, because without some sense of direction, I’ll just be walking in circles, and all the trees look the same.