I don’t know what it is with the water in the Pacific Northwest lately that’s causing this recent influx of heady, destructive doom/death metal. With Seattle’s Bell Witch dropping an almost-90-minute megaton bomb in Mirror Reaper last year, Portland, Oregon is also starting to become the city where all things slow and guttural go to blossom into incredible, epic-length cascades of the downtrodden. Throwing their hats into that collective summoning circle are upstarts Shrine of the Serpent. Formerly known as Tenspeed Warlock, this trio turned some heads last year releasing a split with Black Urn. With their debut full-length in my grubby paws, they look to cement a name for themselves in a quickly-crowding arena. Can Entropic Disillusion stand out amongst the ever-growing crowd?
Within minutes of instrumental opener “Descend into Dusk,” the answer is a resounding yes. Heavy, plodding drums, tar-thick bass, and the most grotesque of riffs cascade into one another, giving the feeling one has been trapped on a capsized boat, fighting for grip while chaos swirls around you. And just as follow-up “Hailing the Enshrined” offers the album’s only respite in the opening, you’re lulled into this false sense of comfort and security before more gargantuan riffs and thunderous drumming throws you back into the depths. Guitarist Todd Janeczek’s cave-bear-fresh-out-of-kill vocals roar over the proceedings, sending you even further into Winter doldrums. It’s been a while since I heard doom/death delivered with this much ferocity, and Entropic Disillusion delivers it in spades.
The intensity never lets up as the album progresses. “Desecrated Tomb” levels with the aplomb of the much-missed diSEMBOWELMENT, only completely devoid of all the happier feelings that the long-lost band conjured decades ago. Closer “Rending the Psychic Void” drags the listener, beaten and bloodied from almost an hour’s worth of slow beatings to a grotesque, pulverizing end, causing yours truly to hit the replay button with gleeful anticipation. When a formula needs very little work, you stick with it with as much conviction and power. The results end up being satisfying and worth the time.
But that’s not to say that all things are rosy here. The production is brickwalled as all get-out, with the worst affected being the drums, which sound washed out and distorted. It’s a shame, as Chuck Watkins is already displaying beast-like power and head-turning precision, especially in his few cymbal flourishes. Also, “Returning,” a “song” comprised of static noise and a sample, should have remained on the cutting room floor. The fact that it’s followed by another instrumental in the uncompromisingly crushing “Epoch of Annihilation” exacerbates this fact. Otherwise, Shrine of the Serpent crafted themselves quite the powerful introduction, and with room to grow, they could easily make a name for themselves in short order.
Much like Bell Witch and Oregon state-mates Hell before them, Shrine of the Serpent displayed all the heft and chops necessary to hang with the big guns, and are helping to put the Pacific Northwest on the map for quality doom/death metal. In time, I can see them being named among the heavy-hitters of the field. Esoteric Disillusion is one hell of a way to make a great first impression, and I’m looking forward to hearing more from this promising three-piece. Dirge and purge, gang.