Serpent Column - Mirror in Darkness
Mystiskaos
Experimental Black Metal
10 songs (44:46)
Release year: 2019
Official Bandcamp
Reviewed by Goat

A very mysterious one-man project from somewhere in America, all that you can really tell about mainman Theophonos is his affinity for Greek mythology, a vital element in this, the second full-length from Serpent Column. It's definitely black metal but post-millennial at that, informed more by math rock and Deathspell Omega's wilder flights of fancy than the original Norwegian founding fathers. And the result is a compellingly odd album that will scour at your ears like sandpaper, hostile and unfriendly opener Promise of the Polis downright chaotic as it directs its rage at you from the opening seconds, dissonant riffs and insane shrieks atop a technical morass that takes over as the track progresses until the riffs grow more technical and almost hardcore in their bluntness. It's a powerful piece, not the least for the deranged, near-constant screaming that directs your attention for the first few listens until you're able to focus on how good the backing instrumentation is; fortunately Theophonos allows this to take the lead for the technical opening to Ausweg, leaving chaotic blackened metal behind in favour of a more expansive take on heavy music that simply begs to have 'progressive' and 'post-' thrown in front of whatever genre adjectives you choose to employ. Until the insane screaming rejoins the party, however, and again takes your attention from the post-black-hardcore morass that lurks in the background.

This is where Mirror in Darkness stumbles, for your intrepid reviewer, at least; it's inherently unfriendly to the listener and doesn't allow you to enjoy it for what it is. The six-minute-plus tracks here outstay their welcome and would work better as shorter, tighter pieces, while the briefer likes of the two-minute-plus title track (almost grindcore in its bluntness, like a blackened Pig Destroyer) and the following Lotophagia promise much that could be delivered with a little longer to explore. Meanwhile, Seinsvergessenheit is a part-ambient, part-strummed exploration that barely feels worthy of interlude status, even with the break into heaviness towards the end. The album is definitely at its strongest with the likes of Apophenia, a post-Akercockean black/death workout that uses its heaviness and progressive willingness to stray into downright noise rock terrain to great effect, or the following Amphiclasm which embraces both math metal and near Blut Aus Nordian dissonance to gloriously riff-worship as it blasts off into a post-hardcore void.

Unfortunately it never feels like a cohesive album so much as a collection of experiments that sometimes work together and sometimes could have used a little longer in the oven. It's definitely the kind of listening experience that everyone will have their own highlights of but the glimpses of potential shown in, for example, that hinted blackened Pig Destroyer will be enough for some to love this, and fair enough! Warlords of the World to Come may have the clumsiest title here but the song itself is terrific and an album highlight, a very intense blackened thrash pulverising allowed to assault the listener without remorse but living up to the experimental promise with a post-metal build at the midpoint that soon speeds back into riff-focused black metal. And Greek-titled finale Metagenésin ends the album with a similarly guitar-based exploration that veers into post-metal territory before speeding into a blackened finale. All the elements of something special are here, they're just not being put together quite well enough yet. But in the meantime, Serpent Column is a name to remember and one that fans of leftfield black metal will glean much enjoyment from.

Killing Songs :
Apophenia, Ampliclasm, Warlords of the World to Come
Goat quoted 70 / 100
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