Released: 2011, Altsphere Productions
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Rote Mare is prepared to school the masses on what traditional doom is all about. The Australian four piece wears their influences prominently and proudly, blending heavy doses of Celtic Frost, early Cathedral, Trouble, Electric Wizard, Saint Vitus, and well…you get the idea. Sufficed to say that the band has taken their inspirational cues from all the right places. And while Rote Mare has been self releasing a healthy line of demos and EPs since 2005, SERPENTS OF THE CHURCH is the band’s first official full length through Altsphere Productions. And given the band’s influences, it sounds exactly like you’d expect it to – methodically slow, polished, wailing DOOOOOM.
The pace of the album reminded me a lot of Cathedral’s mighty FOREST OF EQUILIBRIUM debut; the tunes are slow and precise, yet they survive from getting stale (for the most part) by integrating various degrees of twin guitar harmonies, bouncy bottom end riffs, and of course, the mandatory crushing plod. It’s a simple enough formula, but one that can easily go awry. Vocally, Phil Howlett sounds like an angrier Scott Reagers, with his pained, melodious vocal bellowing. It’s a great balance to the weighty musical backdrop behind him and quickly becomes a signature of the band’s sound.
The songs themselves are pretty standard fare for the genre – topics of misery, death, greed, and general human interest abound, but they’re well thought out and diverse enough to make most the album’s hour and 16 minute run time bearable. Which if I have any beef with the SERPENTS OF THE CHURCH, that’s probably it – it’s reeeeally long. You certainly get your money’s worth here, but there are a few tracks that felt more like endurance tests than they should. The band could’ve easily shaved a few minutes of exposition off of “The Funeral Song” without sacrificing any of its power, and the same could be send for the closing “Children of the Sabbath.” It’s a delightfully cheeky song that namedrops classic Sabbath albums for its lyrical inspiration. Being the huge Sabbath fan that I am, I was smiling for the first half of the song, but was checking my watch by the halfway point. But these moments are counterbalanced by standout tracks like “Slow Decay,” the epic title track, and the massive “In Doom’s Name.”
The good definitely outweighs the not so good on SERPENTS OF THE CHURCH and the album succeeds in most of its endeavors. Rote Mare isn’t reinventing the doom genre, but why fix what’s not broken? Fans of doom will find plenty to like on SERPENTS OF THE CHURCH when it releases in September. Check out the band’s website for purchase info.