Title: The Serpent Servant
Label: Facedown Records
Release Date: March 31st, 2009
Review By: David M
- When Waters Run Deep
- The Serpent Servant
- Anything Goes
- Storming The Gates Of Hell
- Welcome To Forever
- More Than Conquerors
- Revival: America
- In The House Of Mourning
- When I Speak
- City Of Refuge
Well, it’s been a while, folks. The last (and only other) review I wrote for this site was the For Today, and I remember how that didn’t exactly go well for me. I suppose that’s the risk of reviewing a site favorite and not giving it stellar marks. (Since then, my opinion has changed, and I love the cd; took a while for it to grow on me) That being said, here’s my review for Impending Doom’s newest release, the Serpent Servant.
If you’re not familiar with Impending Doom, chances are you’re not a metal fan or if you are, you’re either too old school or so new, you don’t even know who As I Lay Dying is. Since their Facedown induction, they have exploded into the scene and in your face, whether you liked it or not, and gained a lot of respect and fans along the way. Before this album, on their Nailed. Dead. Risen. release and their EP, their sound resembled what the world likes to dub “grindcore,” even though site regulars Nodes, myself, and others disagree quite strongly. You know: guttural/pig squeal vocals, blast beats out the wazoo, indistinguishable guitar parts…the list goes on and on. My first impression of the band, while not bad, wasn’t one of “Wow, these guys are original.” Not saying they were trying to come riding in on the cash cow (poor Bessy, so many bands have broken her back), but their timing was that of when the saturation begun. With their newest effort, however, my opinion has been reformed: these guys know exactly what they’re doing. Gone is the wannabe-grind from before. Instead, we find ourselves with an incredibly solid metal album that will be bringing in the masses to their realm of “gorship.”
The second the CD starts, you can already hear how the band has improved. Tim Lambesis of As I Lay Dying notoriety has done an incredible job with their sound, taking their near sonic mess from before and turning it into a solid, articulate, and precise masterpiece. “But wait. They didn’t record it themselves. So THEY didn’t improve!” The thing is, the fact they chose to go with Tim and record is an improvement on its own. Instead of recording with an engineer that may know what they’re doing but would’ve gone with a more raw feel, they went down the more polished route, and with the material they wrote this time around, that’s exactly what they needed. There’s no more of the jumbled guitar parts or “bree bree brees” that everyone seemed to love, and honestly, I’m glad. That’s what kept me from truly getting into them before, and I know there’s a lot of others that felt the same.
Vocally, as I mentioned before, there are no more pig squeals or anything of the like. Instead, frontman Brook Reeves assaults you with a voice that will leave you feeling like you are nothing more than a speck of dust compared to him. It’s so powerful and commanding that you have to listen, merely for that fact alone. The first thing I thought of is he almost sounds like the Christian birth-child of vocalists Guy Kozowyk (the Red Chord) and Phillip Bozeman (Whitechapel). Definitely not a bad thing in my book. Also, compared to his previous vocals endeavors (and in relation to my comparisons), he is a lot more understandable, so that alone should hopefully attract more people that were turned off from the “bree horr horrs” from before. Doesn’t hurt to actually HEAR the lyrics, right?
There’s no doubt in Reeve’s lyrics that Impending Doom is a Christian band, nor should you have any questions. Yes, this isn’t your sister’s Superchick album, nor should anyone expect it to be, but I am grateful to live in a time where Christians can be accepted for their differences rather than any “deviation” from the norm to be shunned and looked down upon. However, the lyrical content is pretty dark, and the closer we come to His return, should we expect any different? These aren’t good times, the Adversary’s hold is strong, and these songs don’t shy away from that truth. It takes guts to write about what’s really going on, though, so I give him credit for that.
NOTE: I’m a vocalist. Not a guitarist (except for Rock Band), nor a bassist, or drummer. So when it comes to describing the other vital parts of a band, I’m usually not too technically savvy, but I’ll try my best to cover the different parts in this review, and reviews to come.
As I mentioned before with the vocals, everything is more understandable, yet that doesn’t apply for the vocals alone. All of the guitar, and even bass, parts are very punctual and individual, instead of merging together into a headache of a mess, and you can’t help but feel attacked by their sheer brutality. It’s what I’ve been waiting for in the Christian music scene ever since I first listened to Whitechapel. (Great band, musically, but their lyrics are pure filth and ruin what would be a good band.) Don’t expect any crazy solos or lead parts just because Tim Lambesis is at the helm. This is still Impending Doom, and that’s not a side of them I’ll ever expect to see
Although former drummer Andy Hegg has been replaced by newcomer Chad Blackwell, the ferocity and speed that won me over in the first place has returned, and even stronger than before. There’s plenty of blast beats and half-time parts to make any metal fan happy, but not a single song has any sloppy drumming. It’s all executed so proficiently, and, once again, thanks to Lambesis Studios, the quality is nothing but top notch and brings out the drums to a new level that you can’t help but think, “Holy crap, this sounds good.” True, we live in a world where drum machines run wild and free, and love to make their homes in the most generic of metal albums, but talk to anyone who has seen this band live, and they’ll tell you Impending Doom doesn’t need programming to sound good. But with the time and quality put into all of the other musical departments, it would feel wrong not to give that sound and quality to the drums, as well.
If you’ve noticed, I have said little to nothing bad about this album, because I genuinely feel that there isn’t a lot of negative things to find to begin with, and when I do, it all seems like it’s just my personal views. For example: track 7, “Revival:America,” seems like it’s a filler track, and would’ve fit better if it was the intro track and “When Waters Run Deep” was lengthened a bit and made into a full song. Also, the length of the CD is pretty short, clocking in at around 36 minutes, but that doesn’t take away from the CD as a whole.
Overall: The Serpent Servant will do nothing to convert you to metal if you’re not a fan already, and if you’re expecting it to, you’ll be sorely disappointed. But if you’re like me, a fan of Whitechapel and Meshuggah, waiting for a Christian band to enter into those “forbidden territories,” you’ll find yourself very pleased with a well-crafted metal album that won’t be leaving your CD-player anytime soon. And I realize this score may seem ludicrous to some (and I was very hesitant to give it), but I can’t express enough how much I have enjoyed this album and how long-awaited it’s been in the Underoath/As I Lay Dying rip-off infested Christian scene.
Oh, and 2:42 of “More than Conquerors.” If you don’t enjoy that riff, I don’t know if there’s much I can do to help you.