One Track Mind: Serpent and Seraph, “Tears of Niviane” from Under Darkened Skies (2013)

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I try my best not to judge an album by its cover or a band by its name. But every now and then one of those things catches my attention. When I opened my email to find a note about the new song from symphonic metallers Serpent & Seraph, my first thought was “damn, that’s a cool band name.” I clicked on the link to the video and found out that it was also pretty fitting for their sound.

In the mid to late 1990s, a group of bands emerged from the extreme end of the metal spectrum with a style that was called “beauty and the beast.” It involved a mixture of melodic symphonics and brutally heavy music, but its primary feature was the juxtaposition of a female angelic voice with a male demonic growl. Bands like Theatre of Tragedy, back before they changed their style, made me a fan.

Serpent & Seraph does something similar, only in this case, the beauty is the beast. The song opens with a sound more akin to power metal as singer Kas StClare delivers the vocal lines in a soprano for a few minutes before she unleashes her death growl as the band kicks the sound up a notch or three in heaviness. StClare is far from the first female vocalist to go all growly, but I really like the way she does it. Hers seems a more natural vocal sound, if that makes sense when you’re talking about a death growl.

I’ve always been a huge fan of blending melodic and heavy, and Serpent & Seraph does that well. Parts of the song are very melodic and symphonic, with only the near-constantly bashing drums of Joseph Lopresti keeping the metal edge on it.

Guitarist Claudeous Creamer (not a stage name, apparently) throws some nice technical shred in on the heavier parts. But what really holds the song together (and I don’t say this often) is the work of keyboard player Brian McCarver, who puts together a nice piano piece on the softer part of the song and carries it through into the heavier part, morphing it into kind of one of those old cool, creepy horror movie sounds. It’s subtle, but really gives the track something extra.

So, I guess, sometimes it pays to judge a band by its name. Or at least check them out because of it. I really like what I’m hearing with “Tears of Niviane,” and when the band’s first full-length Under Darkened Skies arrives in the fall, you can bet it will get a good listen from me.

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Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelse reviews.com.
Fred Phillips

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