Serpent Thone - _White Summer Black Winter_
(Transition Loss, 2010)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (7 out of 10)
Just who do you think you are? To be an instrumental band, in any genre, takes a bit of arrogance and a lot of self confidence. This might not be true for classical, ambient or electronic music, but bear with me. To remove vocals and leave audience hinged on the structure of musical sections puts trust in the remaining sections. Heavy instrumental passages are common in the post-metal and progressive landscapes, but remain scattered and few for the rest of the genres. Serpent Throne attempts to offer a world devoid of speech, but fluent in the language of fuzz and electric riffs. What is found comes as a surprise, as its strengths and weaknesses are never what was originally expected.

_White Summer Black Winter_ was originally released in 2010 on Transition Loss via compact disc. Recently, Prophase music released a limited edition vinyl, thus kicking around this record for another spin in the media. The warm crackle of vinyl seems fitting for this type of music, though _White Summer Black Winter_ would be a perfect candidate for an 8-track transfer. Limited edition could also include a lava lamp, ounce of pot and shag rug to slowly melt inside.

If there is any time in metal's history to base an instrumental record on, it is the volcanic time of 1974-1979. Channeling the powers of proto-metal titans long forgotten, Serpent Throne presents itself like a videogame cover band more interested in Black Sabbath than the Zelda series. The band leaves its narration to multi-parted guitar solos with enough melodic passages and drum fills to fill an arena. _White Summer Black Winter_ accomplishes more than most proto-metal throwbacks and still feels energetic, despite this being the third release of pretty much the same format. I believe it is time to sit down and say there are some awesome, transcendental passages which burn like molten lava deep within this record; there is also a fair share of hardened pumice and ash mixed within.

Despite Serpent Throne doing much what The Sword did in 2005 without the addition of vocals, this subtraction has led the band to explore the fantasy and masculine world of proto-metal without the help of sword and sorcery lyrics. Introductions are mightier and the payoff is so much greater. _White Summer Black Winter_ works with the type of fist crushing a bud tall boy you would come to expect. Despite all of its achievements, the whole of the record feels weak and not as luminescent when not under backlight.

The instrumental template begins to crack when parts of songs show promise (middle part of "Pagan Eclipse") while others offer nothing (beginning of "Pagan Eclipse"). The additional constraint of a throwback sound corrals the band's talents into paper thin fantasy poster which can easily be rolled up. Still though, _White Summer Black Winter_ is mighty fun and provides a soundtrack to a great party -- something other metal records fail to do. Multiple listeners of this record only warmed my opinion of this record. Songs began to feel like classic anthems and I started to think about a conversion van with a wizard painted on the side.


(article published 5/6/2011)

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