Released by: Lake of Fire Productions
Release date: February 15th 2013
Genre: Heavy metal
Kenneth Thunderbolt – Vocals
Grim Vindkall – Lead Guitar
D.K. – Lead Guitar
Kallbrand – Bass Guitar
Graveyard – Drums
01. Follow the Snake to the Core
02. Black Light District
03. By the hammer of Beelzebuth
04. Nothing but Pain
05. The Great Sarcophagus
06. The Rebel
07. Black Moon Curse
08. The Fire Omega
It should come as to no surprise to anyone fan of traditional heavy metal that there is a resurgence of a more occult-tinged type of traditional heavy metal, bearing a deep bluesy vibe and a slight stoner incline. Over the past few years, we’ve had Castle, Christian Mistress, Blood Ceremony and a bunch of others from all over the world. Of course, Sweden has had its share of the mother lode, with bands like Graveyard and Witchcraft being now quite well known and successful to a bigger scale. It is my pleasure to bring you another Swedish up-and-coming wonder:Snakeskin Angels.
The band is still quite young, having been active only since 2008. Their first demo came out in 2010 and actually consisted of all the songs present on Follow the Snake to the Core, their first official full-length album, which is nothing less than a full re-mix and re-mastering of this 8-song (plus one intro), 2010 demo. What perhaps is most notable about the band is its line-up, consisting of members of some notable Swedish bands. First, we have Kenneth “Thunderbolt” Gagner on vocals, better known for having been in Swordmaster, for the more extreme metal fans among you. Then we have Kalle “Graveyard” Pettersson and Daniel “DK” Kvist on drums and guitar respectively, both better known to some by being in melodic death metal band Taetre. This round of musicians is rounded up by second guitarist Grim Vindkall, a member of melodic doom band Nox Aurea (who brought us Ascending in Triumph, their terrific 2010 offering) as well as Gustaf “Kallbrand” Sundin, who hails from the black metal scene with his own band, Styggelse. So when you look at it, Snakeskin Angels is kind of an underground supergroup or sorts, given birth by these musicians and their desire to unite and bring us an occult heavy metal sound influenced by the late 60s/early 70s, dubbed “Luciferian rock n’ roll”.
So yes, that means that there is an undeniable influence from Black Sabbath permeating throughout the album, which can be felt through the album’s production style as well as the its atmosphere, thickened with incense fumes. The same could be said for all the bands which I name-dropped at the beginning of this review, as without question,Black Sabbath is the pretty much the root of this occult, metallic sound. The Satanic/occult themes had been done before, such as by the infamous occult-inclined progressive rock band Coven – which funnily enough, their debut album came just a few months before Paranoid, but it was still Black Sabbath that “metalized” it and gave birth to the sound we hear on Snakeskin Angels’ debut album.
Now that the history lesson is over, let’s get into the meat of this album. After a 2-minute intro soaked in hallucinogenic substances, we get into the first real song “Black Light District”. It quickly becomes clear and obvious that what you get is heavily influenced by early Black Sabbath. You get the catchy riffs, the not-always-on-key vocals of Thunderbolt and a nice old-school solo. The following song, “By the Hammer of Beelzebuth” keeps this trend of catchy riffs and vocal hooks, with a nice bridge section boasting some great guitar work. “Nothing But Pain” caught me off guard with its beautiful acoustic-driven, contemplative mood. Thunderbolt’s vocals are much calmer and fit impressively well here. I must be honest and say at first, from the first songs, I thought his vocals were kind of off, but now I realize that was deliberate because here, the vocals are very well done.
From the mellow drive of the previous song, “The Great Sarcophagus” brings out a doom-laden mood which I absolutely dig and there’s a wicked groove to the whole thing, as well as a nice solo, which makes it a big standout for me. “The Rebel” follows and is the longest track here, yet still clocking in only at 5 minutes. Again, this is another very strong track, with a ridiculously catchy chorus, as well as a nice acoustic break in the middle which shows the band making good use of dynamics, with even some double-bass pounding at the end. Thunderbolt’s vocals also soar a bit more here, which I must say sounds very good to my ears. “Black Moon Curse” is a bit more generic to me. The riffs are decent but unimpressive and while I like the higher vocal notes in the chorus, it all ends up sounding a bit boring. “The Fire Omega” unfortunately follows the same line as the previous song to me and isn’t as strong as the album’s first half. Thankfully, the short “Wolfmother” brings the album to its end on a strong note, with an interesting near-spoken word to the vocals as well as some soaring vocals which sound really good and makes me feel better that the albums ends that way.
Often, projects made of several musicians from different backgrounds end up either disappointing or just plain boring, yet Snakeskin Angels somehow manages to escape that unfortunate tradition and the final result is a pleasantly solid album of good old heavy metal. The album does seem to get a bit worn out in the second half but it still has a couple of killer songs and a very strong first half.
The bottom line is, if you dig this resurgence of a more occult-tinged heavy metal sound and have been enjoying bands like The Devil’s Blood, Witchcraft or Graveyard, or even if you simply are a Black Sabbath fan, thenSnakeskin Angels will most likely find a nice niche in your collection.
Written by Chris Auclair
Ratings Chris 8/10
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