Good albums survive numerous repeat-listens. A long runtime is risky unless the album holds up well to lengthy listening. Serpents Lair do a fine job on their debut full-length, Circumambulating The Stillborn, for Fallen Empire Records and Hellthrasher Productions. They mix interesting segments well. The tempo never stagnates at one that is much too slow, or simply blows by the listener with end-to-end blasts. In fact, Serpents Lair like the slower tempos as much as the fast ones. There are periodic blast sections, but the slower tempos and rung notes don’t just provide change of pace, they create much-needed atmosphere.
The songs don’t particularly sound catchy and that’s not to say that the album features a lot of dissonance. Mostly, they don’t come across as catchy because the songs wind down epic runtimes evolving from start to finish. Serpents Lair don’t repeat many riffs. The songs morph from one riff to the next. The best aspect of that approach is that you never think you’re listening to the same songs no matter how many times you play them. The repeat listens can last forever, and you will always notice an interesting riff or song segment that you may have overlooked before.
This is a proper full-length, as noted earlier, and most of the runtimes last five to eight minutes. The musicianship is great, as the riffs are played well, the vocals feature some range of styles, and the drumming keeps pace without being overdone.
There’s certainly a fair dose of good music here. It may not all sink in on the first listen, owing to the evolving song structure. Prepare to listen to this record stop and go. Intently listening for the full runtime might be a tad difficult. However, listen to at least one song intently on every repeat and you’ll notice just how good the album is. Serpents Lair wowed in their previous release, which was a demo. They bring the goods here on Circumambulating The Stillborn, the tracks featuring an impressive array of textures and vocal arrangements.
The vocal arrangements can be pretty underrated for some good bands, but Serpents Lair don’t just screech or howl to provide accent to the music. They don’t use catchy choruses either. Circumambulating the Stillborn is like a sermon set to music, so prepare to bow your heads in reverence to the horned one during a listen.
The rung notes are real gold nuggets on this album. The band clearly love to use them, not simply tremolo riffing and blasting like some modern black metal bands do a lot of. In order to do this, Serpents Lair slow things down to allow the rung notes a large share of the stage. When the tremolo riff comes in, it doesn’t sound like a wash, principally because the songwriting is nuanced. In spite of the album not utilizing pop song structure, the vast array of quality riffs are mostly hit rather than miss. You won’t find obvious hackery here. Nor will you find riffs that sound underdeveloped. This album is a fine addition to a catalogue of worthy records, not simply good enough for the casual listen.