The best word for describing this album may be ‘sinister.’ Everything on the album, from its crushing dirt and gravel road sound, to it’s hideous serpentine cover, to the angst-ridden feeling left behind by the lyrical content, is addled with menace.
Witchthroat Serpent hails from Toulouse, France, a place that hasn’t exactly been identified (yet) as a hotbed for this type of cultish doom metal. Notice, I said yet. The band was formed from the ashes of local avant garde black metal and came out in 2014 with seven self-titled tracks of graveyard doom metal. The album was heavy, a trend that carried through to this, Swallow The Venom, a collection that doesn’t depart from their successful formula.
The opening track, “Feu Sacre,” sets the atmospheric tone for the rest of the album. It’s less than two minutes but it is packed with booming hand drums and eerie tribal chants that turn into a mass of heavy riff worship on “Lucifer’s Fire.” This is when the record gets good, seven minutes of rough metal, with clean and well sung lyrics.
That groove continues through “Pauper’s Grave” which shows some of the band’s taste in ponderous and well-contained solo and a truly ponderous outros. My favorite tracks are on the album’s second half. “Red Eyed Albino” and “Scorpent Serpion” show the gritty bass and racheted up intensity, or the horror motif “Hunt For Mountebank.”
This album will probably remind some of what worked well on the last Red Fang recordings (particularly Whales and Leeches) with production of a top-notch quality, grinding guitars, and vocals that reach toward the listener. The venomous vision really gets through. They’re not throwing out sludgy stoner metal a la Earth. The songs structures here are, by and large, a little more conventional and satisfying.
A lot of doom metal bands promise a ride. On Swallow The Venom, Witchthroat Serpent delivers that. The band, in spite of a couple of records and nearly a decade, feel like they’re still in that embryonic phase. This album, for as good as it is, feels like it’s the product of a band in command of its sound, but who has room to tinker with ideas.