Released: 2011, Listenable Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Part of what made Serpentcult’s 2008’s WEIGHT OF LIGHT such a powerful opus was the vocal presence of Michelle Nocon. Her bright and distinct vocal style gave Serpentcult’s dense musical backdrop a unique sense of character that’s often missing in the heavier doom spectrum. So when her departure was announced in early 2010 and the band opted to carry on as a trio with a lead vocalist, many fans were understandably wary about the band’s future. The band went through an entire albums’ worth of material before deciding it wasn’t up to snuff and started over from scratch. That decision opened the creative floodgates, and the resulting RAISED BY WOLVES shows Serpentcult taking a brave step forward into the unknown.
Rather than recreate the formula set forth on previous releases, Serpentcult went through a sort of musical catharsis. Forgoing the concise, 70’s styled doom groove associated with the band’s sound, RAISED BY WOLVES is four ominously dense and atmospheric tracks averaging around 9-minutes apiece, but meant to be experienced as a whole body of work. From the sullen opening refrain of the title track amidst the sound of falling rain, there’s no mistaking that this is a much different and darker version of the band. Growing around that simple, sad riff, it rises into a doomy goliath. Serpentcult’s sense of hypnotic rhythm begins to rear its head throughout the track, stomping forward until the song fades away as humbly as it began, lost in the storm. Frederic Caure’s vocals are sparse and intended as less of a focal point for the song, but more of an accompanying instrument to progress the song forward.
“Crippled and Frozen” and “Longing for Hyperborea” are both instrumental tracks, but no less engaging. “Crippled and Frozen” is a repetitive riff that’s presented in different octaves, phrasing, and structure; it’s an interesting track, but it gets a little monotonous along the way. “Longing for Hyperborea” is the most abstract tune of the four, rising and falling like the tide, with the guitars eventually giving way to chant like moans and percussion interludes. The track bleeds into “Growth of the Soil,” which much like the opening title track rides a simple, yet emotive guitar line that eventually builds into a raging inferno, with the echoes of Caure’s scowl bellowing in the chaos.
RAISED BY WOLVES wasn’t an obvious progression for Serpentcult, but after repeated listens it’s clear that it was the necessary path to take. Though not without its flaws, it’s a powerfully heavy record that's allowed the band to venture outside of their comfort zone in a post-Michelle existence. Find a good set of headphones and give RAISED BY WOLVES a couple of spins to really sink in.