SERPENT & SPIRIT: Has this album set up Urne as Britains next big metal band?

Urne is a band that has seemingly come from out of nowhere in the last couple of months or so. I heard of them after Matt Heafy from Trivium praised their debut album highly on his Facebook, and now I see them popping up all over the place, not least at Bloodstock a couple of weekends back. The band has a very promising future, and SERPENT & SPIRIT definitely sounds like it’s set them on the right track. So, with all of this hype and praise, I just HAD to review them, so here it is!

The album’s title track is up first, fading in with an almost Metallica ‘Blackened’ style guitar riff. The drums come in with some distortion too and it all builds pretty perfectly. The main, heavy riff doesn’t even come in until 1:40, but when it does it explodes in with a huge tripletted guitar riff and a massive scream from Joe. The hardcore vocals come in over the top, Joe’s scream being heavy and powerful, adding even more aggression to the sound. It slows up a little for the chorus, the vocals cleaning up into an almost Mastadon style over the top of some great guitar chord progressions. It’s not long before the Gojira sound returns with a vengeance, though! It gets stripped back after the second chorus, building back up slowly over the top of a fantastic, almost prog guitar riff. The clean(ish) vocals come back in over the top of it, only adding to the epic feel. The screams heading into the end part are fantastic too, so heavy and full of emotion. This was a fantastic way to open an album and even as someone who is usually on the fence with this kind of music, I loved it!

‘THE PALACE OF DEVILS & WOLVES’ starts with a lot more thrash a riff, eerily reminiscent of early Metallica (think ‘The Thing That Should Not Be’). Angus’ vocals are still massively heavy and harsh, but they add so much to the music that I don’t mind it at all. The chorus is pretty catchy, despite the heavy vocals, it being at a steady, deliberate pace. Also, the guitar riff behind them is fantastic, and I cannot get over the bend at the start of each line, it sounds fantastic. The riff out of the second chorus is awesome, another stripped-back-type one that reminds me a bit of ‘Seasons in the Abyss’. We even get a guitar solo over it, too! It fits over the top of the music and the mood perfectly, somehow showing off some great technical ability while not feeling like it was taken too far. The chorus riff is reprised but made heavier before the chuggy verse riff finishes us off. A fantastic song, and one that easily makes the playlist!

‘MEMORIAL’ opens on more huge, heavy guitar chords, building up perfectly with them and the drums into a fantastic, bouncy verse riff. It’s maybe my favourite riff on the album so far, so simple but so heavy and great-sounding. We get it slowing down a tad and some awesome basswork cuts through the noise, some interesting, fun runs. We then head into the fourth riff from this song and we’re only 1:20 in… I think it’s an instrumental. It’s another amazing riff though, again reminiscent of early ‘Tallica. In fact, the way the lead part comes in over the top of it reminds me so much of ‘Call of the Ktulu’ it’s nuts. It then drops out to some INSANELY low bass and drums, my god do they guys have their stuff tuned low. The guitars build back in over the top into a Trivium-esque riff, another awesome one. I could gush over the riffs all day long for this song, especially given the sheer volume of excellent ones, so I shall instead simply implore you to listen. Whether you are a musician or not, you can still appreciate just how damn talented the trio is. Especially to give us this for 8+ minutes. Oh, and the ‘Orion’ style slow-down-bass-led section around the five-minute is f’ing excellent. Damn, these guys are good!

‘MOON & SKY’ opens on a pretty interesting riff before Joe quickly screams it into heaviness. It stays pretty slow but the vocals keep it massively heavy, sounding pretty black metal overall. The chorus again lightens it up a little, the vocals cleaning up and giving off massive Mastadon vibes. I’m not usually that big of a Mastadon fan, but when that style is done sparingly like it is here it works a lot better. We get another fantastic guitar solo buried in here, it feeling pretty inspired by Kirk Hammett (minus the wah). The pace picks up around the midpoint of the song, heading into a metalcore riff with more clean vocals over the top, which also sounds awesome. It again speeds up even more and heavies up for the final part of another awesome song, and another that made the playlist!

‘DESOLATE HEART’ is an eight and a half minute, balls to the wall craziness of thrash and death and black metal. It doesn’t let up once, slapping the listener in the face from the first second until the last. It’s one that I could see having a CRAZY, very fun pit for live, and one that I would very like to be in someday. It’s an awesome song for anyone who likes it heavy, and I would very much recommend checking it out!

The same could be said for ‘ENVY THE DEAD’, but at only two and a half minutes it was always going to be nonstop heaviness. It just feels like a hardcore song that just so happens to also have a catchy, clean chorus, so win-win! It then almost poetically leads into the slow song of the album, ‘MEMORIAL: SING ME TO REST’. It is basic, just a clean, ominous repeating guitar riff with the occasional muttered low vocals over the top of it. We get some power chords and distortion, as well as some harsher vocals, towards the middle of the track, but it doesn’t change much outside of that. It was a nice pallet cleanser ahead of the final track.

Speaking of the last track, ‘A TOMB SO FRAIL’, although it starts off slow and quiet, it sure doesn’t stay that way. The acoustic riff around 1:15 is beautiful though, and wouldn’t at all sound out of place in a much lighter genre. It takes nearly three minutes before the heaviness kicks in, but when it does it gets HEAVY. A multitude of thrash riffs blasts through the second intro part and the verses, picking up the pace massively. We get some cleaner vocalled and slightly slower parts in the choruses, but generally, it is a very heavy track no matter the tempo or vocal style. The second verse may be the heaviest part of the whole album, there’s so much going on it’s like a wall of aggression. The rest of the song is just more riff after riff with some awesome lead guitar parts sprinkled in for good measure. It’s another long one, but it’s worth the listen if you’ve gotten this far. It does seem to end a little out of nowhere though, unfortunately, though that may have just been me.

Overall: While this is definitely on my heavier end of the spectrum, I loved this. The musicianship alone was phenomenal, but when adding in the catchiness of some of the choruses and some of the heaviest, interesting breakdowns I’ve heard this side of Gojira, I cannot help but put my complicated relationship with screaming aside and appreciate this. These guys already have the momentum, and if they keep it up they’re going to be huge.

Score: 8.5/10

Leave a Reply