UK band SERPENTYNE first appeared in 2009, and have established themselves as an active live and recording unit since then. They have three studio albums to their name so far. “The Serpent’s Kiss” appeared in 2016, and is the most recent of these.

While I’m not familiar with the material of the first Serpentyne album, their second one was a most charming endeavor exploring music I’d pretty much describe as a folk music version of Ozric Tentacles. While the folk music element is still present as of 2016, Serpentyne have opted to take their folk music inspirations in a rather different direction this time around.

Initially you kind of get the impression that the band wants to take a bite of the symphonic metal market, as the opening cuts in particular with it’s bombastic blend of majestic orchestral details, powerful guitars and operatic female lead vocals kind of plays straight into the center of such excursions. But as the rest of the album unfolds, a bit more variety is at hand, even of the orchestral details reappear from time to time.

The greater majority of the material is of a different character however. Folk metal or possibly folk hard rock is how I’d describe these cuts, with theatrical, female lead vocals placed on top of a foundation with a hard rock and metal at the core and a liberal amount of folk-tinged elements present. In vocals, in dominant or subservient motifs or due to various instrument details. With liberal amounts of flavoring from the hurdy gurdy adding a subtly exotic sheen to the proceedings. On occasion electronic elements are added in to provide us with some of the charms also present on their previous album, at other times the band opts to go for more of a straight forward concoction of hard rock with folk music details present one way or the other. Even on the concluding cut, Game of Thrones, the gentle Celtic tinged folk music opening sequences gives way to more of a hard rock founded arrangement after a bit.

Personally I have to admit that I found this band more charming in their previous guise, perhaps due to them exploring a type of music a bit further removed from what many other artists produce. At the same time it’s easy to hear that the music on this new CD will have a much broader appeal, even of perhaps not quite as sophisticated nor wild and free in character. Majestic metal with a certain pompous grandeur and theatrical either operatic or semi-operatic female lead vocals is, after all, one of the more popular niche genres present in the genre jungle of music these days. Serpentyne are good at what they do too, there’s no question about that. Still, I do hope they will if not revisit then at least include a few more of the charming, untamed folk and electronic blends that was so utterly charming last time around on any future productions.

Those with a strong fascination for bands operating out from a hard rock and heavy metal foundation to create a blend of those styles of music with folk music  should find Serpentyne’s latest studio album to be well worth spending some time with. A certain fascination for symphonic metal is warranted too, but it is the former and not the latter description that, in my opinion at least, defines this CD.

My rating: 85/100

Track list:
Spirits of the Desert; The Dark Queen; Helen of Troy; Jeanne d’Arc; Lammas Night; The Serpent’s Kiss; Salterello; Viking Blood; Brigantia; Morrighan’s Jig; Game of Thrones

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