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Serpentcult – To Nature…And Back

By: David E. Gehlke

Previously saddled with the distinction of being one of the few bands in doom with a female vocalist (Michelle Nocon), Belgium’s Serpentcult have shed Nocon, and in the process, moved into a while different realm with this year’s Raised by Wolves. The successor to 2009’s heralded Weight of Light, Raised by Wolves is an elaborate spell of doom cast by molten and dirty riffs, and song structures that seemingly build upon each other like well, building blocks of cursed doom. At only four songs, it pushes the boundaries of Sabbath-laden metal, and in the process, improves upon Weight of Light.

Helping matters is the fact the band is out under the Rise Above Records umbrella, now on the must less-stereotyped Listenable Records, a happening guitarist/vocalist and founding member Frédéric Caure was kind enough to discuss with Blistering via email, along with several other worthy topics. Have a gander…

Blistering.com: Bring us up to speed on everything that has happened since Weight of Light. Do you feel some of the lineup changes you made were done out of necessity or simply a lack of chemistry?

Frédéric Caure:
I think the lack of chemistry created a necessity. Things weren't working out anymore proactively in the band, there were tensions, and it ended up in our singer [Nocon] leaving the band. This created a lot of creative opportunities for us, and we grabbed it with both hands.

Blistering.com: Were you ever fully comfortable with having the “Female-fronted doom metal” tag?

No, we hated it for two reasons; first of all, we were not a 'female fronted band;" the fact that we had a woman singing was completely irrelevant to the music we were playing. No band advertises his music as "B-tuned electric guitar thrash," so why would this "female-fronted" technicality tag make any sense? On top of that, we never considered ourselves as a doom band.

Blistering.com: Did you find having to write around female vocals to be difficult?

No, as I said, the fact that we had a female vocalist was irrelevant to our music style. When we were initially looking for a singer, we were looking for someone with an epic voice with lots of melody. I constantly had Bruce Dickinson and Messiah Marcolin [Candlemass] in my mind on that quest. Michelle checked all the boxes, so that's how she joined the band.

Blistering.com: How does it feel to be slimmed down to a three-piece?

The three of us have been working together for many years now, even before Serpentcult. The fact that it's all up to us again is liberating. The band works like a 'triangle' again, by which I mean that everyone is in direct contact with each other, and that is perfect.

Blistering.com: What prompted the move over from Rise Above to Listenable?

When our singer left, Rise Above first wanted to hear what the new album would sound like, so we had to record some demos. However, recording a demo in 2010 costs almost as much as recording an album, so we decided to just go ahead and start to record the album. When the deal with Rise Above fell through, Listenable promptly signed us.

Blistering.com: Do you feel that all of the bands on Rise Above get a designated tag right off the bat regardless of how they sound?

There is definitely something, but I don't know what it is. All bands on Rise Above sound completely different however, so it must be the taste in music of the people working at Rise Above that binds us then?

Blistering.com: There was quite a bit of hype surrounding the band before the release of Weight of Light. Do you feel the band had trouble living up to people’s expectations?

The only hype we felt was that 'highly regarded people' in the 'scene' liked our music. That's all very nice, but what counts in the end to us is the music we make, and the feelings we can express with that. Some get it, some don't. Win some, lose some…

Blistering.com: How much easier was it to work on the new album with a fresh slate and new outlook?

As I said, it was liberating. We expanded our wings and went all the way. Not being restricted to having a front-vocal-person allowed us to elaborate our instrumental approach even more, which was something I've wanted to do for ages. We didn't want to turn into a purely instrumental band however, we just didn't want to restrict ourselves to anything, and made this album.

Blistering.com: Going into Raised By Wolves, was the goal essentially to make the doom-parts from the last album even more doomy?

No, we even consciously stepped further away from this doom approach, less typical doom riffs, more complex song structures. People tell us it's a doomier album than Weight of Light, but that is purely based on the fact that the tempo of the songs is slower, and not for stylistic reasons.

Blistering.com: Having four tracks (and lengthy ones at that) can often backfire on a band, so how did you go about making each song interesting?

It's a no-nonsense risk we wanted to take. There is no discussion if you put only four songs on an album, you either swim or sink. It doesn't allow the album to be filled with fillers or half-arsed songs; if one of the four songs fails then 25% of the album (and in my opinion the whole album) is already ruined. The album is one theme, and all four songs are connected. We had more songs for the album, I think we recorded like six or seven but these four tracks form the essence of this album, there was no need to add anything else. How we do that is a matter of gut feelings; one can hardly explain songwriting, it is a process that feels right and is something that matures. I can assure you that in order to come up with four great songs like these, a multitude more had to be written and thrown away again.

Blistering.com: After repeated listens to the album, it comes across as very dark and even negative sounding. Was that what you were aiming for?

It was absolutely not intended to sound negative, no, nor has any music of Serpentcult been written to sound negative. Our message has, despite being very critical, always been a message of hope. The musical atmosphere on Raised By Wolves is one of "back to nature," being one with the elements and finding peace. I am glad to see however that this album gives food for thought, and I'm happy you have taken the time and effort to think about it.

Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda going into 2012?

Some new music will be brewed, but no concrete plans have been made.



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