Serpents Knight - Silent Knight … Of Myth and Destiny
Shadow Kingdom Records
Disc 1: 15 songs (68'02") Disc 2: 10 songs (34'36")
Release year: 2010
Shadow Kingdom Records
Reviewed by Alex

If anything, the timing of this review could not have been more proper. Didn’t Warrel Dane (of Nevermore fame) just announce the reunion of Sanctuary? And of course, just like many, or probably even most, I thought that Sanctuary was Warrel’s first band. That, my friends, turns out to be not true. To tell this fascinating story, from the depth of Seattle’s metal underground, Brad Poland decided to unwrap the shroud from Serpent’s Knight and to tell what Warrel’s (born Warrel ‘Wally’ Baker) true first metal band really was.

The booklet notes are priceless here, the life of Serpent’s Knight, the unfortunate band which never saw a single release, told by Brad Poland himself. This is a narrative of perhaps many underground aspiring acts which sprouted across the Western world in the late 70s – early 80s, many of them consumed from within. Poor, often outcast, teenagers, practically kids, looking for a window of a release through the novel rebellious music known as heavy metal. Yes, this is how I read this story, setting aside the details of drunken debauches and the final acrimonious split between Brad and John Kimmel on one side and Warrel Dane on the other. I don’t quite need to know the details of why the hatchet has been unburied and who wronged who. The truth is between the actors who have long exited the stage and Warrel Dane does not have his say to return the claims. What is much more interesting is how a trio of Seattle kids tried to hold on to the dream, hoping to become metal musicians in the impact band. The failure to do so rests as much with the circumstances as it probably does with the self-inflicted fate.

So, what about the music? It isn’t half as bad, but, man, you have got to have patience and you have got to dig deep. The sound from these re-mastered (and that is the word used very lightly here) tapes is just plain horrible. If you are able to unpeel the muffled mess, where all instruments were recorded on some one-track device with no sound separation in ill-equipped room, you can hear the guys laying out a dark-stapled version of NWOBHM, occult through and through, inverted crosses gracing the minds and guitars. Add to this Dane’s insanely high vocals scraping the stratosphere and some interesting improvisational Hendrixian solo guitar playing and you can see why King Diamond and Mercyful Fate themselves were impressed with Serpent’s Knight and hung out with the group on Mercyful Fate maiden US tour. If only Serpent’s Knight had a proper release by then, the life could have turned out a little different for these Seattle dudes. Alas, no one got to hear these tunes until now, and as much as they are a part of metal lore, with the sound presented hereby, not many will find pleasure in learning this history. There is some harmony peaking in Disturbing Your Peace, Long Live Heavy Metal is a respectable chord driven Manowarish commercial track, No Sanctuary pulsates with its trademark darkness, and Trial By Fire is another more together racing NWOBHM track bearing definite signs of Sabbath psychedelia. Conceived for Hypocrisy hints of Accept Breaking Up Again from behind the impenetrable wall. Yet Serpent’s Knight never became Coven, so we will never know what could have been.

After some personal struggles (and apparently spending some time behind bars) Brad Poland tried to resurrect Serpent’s Knight with another vocalist, Mark G. Those tracks are also presented here on the second disc. Accept/WASP influenced opener Sick Bloody Cunt is perhaps one of the main reasons to put this out, as Brad had to get a few personal things off his chest. Serpent’s Knight, the song is full of that creative, insane, possessive twisted guitar which was the mark of the band in its original days, but many other tracks on 3000 Degrees in the Shade are basically sketches, interludes, and some underdeveloped pieces. Battle Angels, the re-issue of the original 1981 title track has some strong riffs, but Betrayed, Eisoptrophobia and Dellusions of Grandeur are quick come-and-gone unfinished outlines.

If you are a historian of metal, and I know some NWOBHM crazies who have to have everything ever released (or simply recorded as it is the case here) in the genre, you have to shell out a few pennies for Serpent’s Knight. Yet, if sound quality is something you have to have with every CD in your collection, you can let Silent Knight … Of Myth and Destiny to remain a museum piece, as it undeniably is.

Killing Songs :
Trial by Fire, Tears of Love, Battle Angels, Serpent's Knight
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