Sinistral King – Serpent Uncoiling Review

The aftermath of a bloody battle. The buzz of blowflies and corpse-eating beetles: a lament. A ritual chanted amongst rotting corpses. Spirits rise, coil, uncoil. This is the beginning of Sinistral King’s Serpent Uncoiling, an esoteric, mystical approach to black metal. A side project of the members of European bands Unlight (Germany), Triumph Of Death (Switzerland), and Vredehammer (Norway), Sinistral King’s extreme musical approach is as dynamic and diverse as its line-up. Serpent Uncoiling is their debut full-length. Grand in vision, Serpent Uncoiling is a flourishing black metal melodrama—a golden statue for all to see.

Nothing is subtle or understated here: Sinistral King exist within lofty, epic territories of a majestic scale. Tracks dwell in lengthier territories, with four of the five reaching nine and ten minutes. However, each track is fragmented and episodic—its own self-contained story. Mad onslaughts of blackened carnage are interspersed by sudden cuts into atmospheric, ambient, and symphonic scenes laced with arcane mystery. These breaks eliminate any monotony that lengthier tracks typically have. Simultaneously, constant interruptions can upset flow and balance—just as you’re invested in a series of riffs and the building of tension everything can shift. Sinistral King implements these interludes expressively; there’s a real sense of continuity. It’s all about transition, and Sinistral King interlace the bombastic with the brutal. Take the mid-section of “Nahemoth.” Following blackened riffing, the song trickles into an angelic siren-like break of female vocals and echoes. Whereas this severe contrast could go wrong, the use of a simple piano-led bridge—stark and sudden – connects the two moments well. When the blackened crust of the song reemerges towards its end, decorated by a soaring and upbeat solo, the essence of the siren-like melancholy and the demonic tone of the black metal can be traced in the song’s crescendo ending.

Set-pieces in every song provide emotional variety. Regal sounding trumpet sounds, merging with tumbling drums and a somber guitar chunkiness, brings an astounding melancholy to “Fields of Necromance,” as do deep vocal chants as the song progresses. As the album comes to an end with “Where Nothingness Precedes Cosmos,” even more intense ghostliness throbs through the mix mid-song. Horror-movie-esque sound effects and choral softness merge. In itself, this would seem corny; however, the explosion of fury that follows asserts the right for the ambient melodrama to remain. Unfortunately, the black metal fury is again interrupted after being let out from its prison, replaced with choral whispers as the song closes. This is my one peeve with this record, a tendency to cut at moments of development. For the most part, though, this pomposity is supported by a sturdy and well-constructed base.

In terms of the black metal itself, Sinistral King try their hand at sub-styles aplenty, rarely overdoing their execution. Spurts of revved and cranking intensity are common, as are some regal melodies and solos, but for the most part, Sinistral King play a second-wave black metal that merges chunkier grooves with icy tremolo and heavy layers of atmosphere. There’s the slightest flavor of dissonance, touchings of chaos; the back end of “Isheth Zenunim” ramps up the dissonant noise effectively, spiraling upwards and upwards before collapsing in on itself and releasing a tumultuous melodic solo that siphons itself into the arteries of the track. The band grooves with a straightforward menace, allowing the melodrama of the well-enunciated vocals to take center stage, as is especially key to the throbbing opening of “Fields of Necromance.” Sinistral King are at their best when performing with melodic intensity—they have a knack of merging the lofty beauties that melodic lines can portray with a somber underlayer. In the closer, “Where Nothinness Precedes Cosmos,” a squealing density is present, evoking the symphonic death marches of Septicflesh and Behemoth with poise.

Serpent Uncoiling is a varied piece of work. Sinistral King have a lot to offer: a buffet of choices. However, these are not cheap cuts. They’re dramatic and bombastic and over the top but still rooted in a grim and dismal extreme world. Overall, there are many, many moments to enjoy here. There aren’t moments of true wonder and awe, moments to take the listener by the scruff of the neck, but it all works well. Don’t get me wrong, pacing and flow can be hampered by the variety, but not in a distractingly bad way. The serpent has uncoiled and revealed something of worth.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Vendetta Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 24th, 2020

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