[Review] Serpent Omega Keep a Stranglehold on Sludge with New Album 'II'

Photo by Jonas Husbom

Blending doom, sludge, and crust into what they call a “sordid brew,” Stockholm’s Serpent Omega have steadily released music since their 2012 promo and their subsequent self-titled debut the following year. Their signature is a grimy, rendering brand of sludge with tones some bands could only dream of achieving. With the recent addition of Peter Stjärnvind (Nifelheim, Entombed, et al), aka “Fast Feet Pete,” on drums, the band dives back into the muck with II, their first full-length in seven years, and first release since a 2015 live album recorded in Klubb Malfunction. The album is an unflinching affair, filled with rattling bass, brutish guitar passages, and a persistent sense of dread.

We open on “Orog Nuur,” a black-tinged sludgefest with monstrous riffs and a machine gun kick-laden chorus. The lead break gets some thumping drumming underneath it, letting the alternate-picked solo ring out untainted and undisturbed. “Land of Darkness” builds from another tom-filled affair, before vocalist Urskogr employs more of a shrieking technique, as opposed to the yells and yowls that came in the previous track. Low and slow doom is the name of the game on “Rivers of Reversed,” with more flavors of black metal. A bass-heavy section with Urskogr’s clean vocals is a fun change of pace, as her clean vocals work surprisingly well against the ugliness and filth created by the instrumentation.

The opening bass notes of “Through the Gates” rattle and buzz, as the verse throws things headlong into D-beat and crust territory. As the shortest non-instrumental track, it’s a burst of energy, a kick in the ass after the knuckle-dragging fare we’ve had thus far. The opening licks and double stops of “Chthonic” give way to a palm-muted, heavy-handed verse riff. The chugging over the double kicks is truly heavy, and on an album like this, that’s saying something. “At The Mountain’s Edge” starts off with some classic metal riffs and urgent drum fills, before bleeding into gloominess. The final track “Av aska” is an instrumental, with intermittent guitars and synths beneath a collection of speaking in tongues, ending this affair on an eerie, ritualistic note.

The riffs are monolithic, the composition is gruesome, and it all makes for a great time. The guitar work by Andreas “Jonsson” Westholm must be commended, as it serves as the center, the foci around which Serpent Omega’s brand of sludge is built. Exciting isn’t necessarily a word I would associate with doom metal, but for this record, an exception can be made.

II is available now via Icons Creating Evil Art.

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