Written by CoreyCritiques
Serpent Column – Kathodos
Avant Garde Black Metal
Released September 30th, 2020
Via Mystiskaos Records
Upon first listen, I’m immediately reminded of the first time that I listened to some of the “catchier” tracks off of DeathSpell Omega’s Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice. There’s a lot of dissonance and discordance going on in this album and Theophonos – the sole member of Serpent Column – delivers it in full dose on this album. In fact, he goes perhaps even one step further by starting the opening track “Departure of Splinters” in what sounds like the middle of a song, like changing dials on a radio station and hearing the tail-end of a really cool Black Metal song. Then, in comes a funky head-bobbing rhythm with some off-kilter drums and a toe-tapping beat.
There’s this sense of menace and swagger that permeates the whole album. It’s not an overly-aggressive album in terms of the emotions it evoked out of me as a listener, nor is it one that inspires a lot of awe. Instead, I would describe this album as a swirling abyss of chaos, one that draws the listener inwards while still allowing the listener to focus on the different elements of the music. The most notable element to me being the guitars. They’re fuzzed-out, cheeky, aggressive, and alter back and forth between melodic, atmospheric, rhythmic, and some more thrashy sections. And then again, at other times it just sounds like someone brought a guitar to life only to torture it by whipping it over and over again. All of this makes for an incredibly wonderful experience, neither style overstaying its welcome. He teases just enough and then moves on.
One thing I really found refreshing about this album was the length of the tracks. Growing up listening to Black Metal, I became very accustomed to an album having several tracks breaking the 10-minute mark. Not only does Kathodos not have a song over 10 minutes long (though “Desertification” comes close at 9:22) but the majority of the songs are around that 3-4 minute mark. I feel like this helps to break up the songs quite well, because, while I do really enjoy this album, some of the tracks have similar riffs, rhythm structures, etc. But then again, you have songs like “Dereliction”, which definitely made me stop and focus on what I was hearing about halfway through the song where the screechy guitars do this staccato, chunked out riffing with barely a discernible melody. I couldn’t bop my head to it but I loved it all the same.
The vocals are a good mix of high shrieks and low growls. Nothing too spectacular but nothing that turned me off either. Honestly, this could have been an instrumental album and I’d be fine with that. An interesting thing to note is the naming of the tracks. The word “kathodos” in Greek, roughly translates to “descend” and the word “anodos” (also the name of the fifth track) means “ascent”. And knowing that and connecting the dots of the various titles (for example, the two tracks “Departure of Splinters” and “Splinters of Departure” makes the album a more interesting concept thematically.
One last thing I feel the need to touch on is the amazing flow on the album. I mentioned the length of songs as being a useful way to break up any perceived monotony but the ordering of the tracks proves to me that Serpent Column took careful thought in how this collection of music was presented to us listeners. Particularly, I urge listeners to really pay attention to tracks 6, 7, and 8. The way the ending of one seems to perfectly compliment the beginning of the next is absolutely superb.
Final thoughts? If you’re looking for Black Metal that is all about embracing the chaos and dissonance while still maintaining an evil atmosphere with a dash of “fuck you” swagger thrown in, I think Kathodos by Serpent Column is an album you should pick up immediately.