Opprobrium - Serpent Temptation (Reissue) - (9.5/10)
Published on February 9, 2016
Tempted by the Snake!!!!!
Originally offered in 1988, the legendary debut from Opprobrium, Serpent Temptation is perhaps one of the most convoluted release histories in the genre. Officially offered to the public in early April 1988 by Brutal Records under the then-current name of Incubus, it got an initial reissue on Radiation Records with completely re-recorded vocals and bass, revised lyrics, song titles and different cover art which was then given another reissue on Nuclear Blast in a two-pack with the band’s follow-up Beyond the Unknown in 2000. Now, here we are just shy of 30 years since that original release and now under the new name Opprobrium, this seminal record is getting a third reissue to the public from Relapse Records in the best version yet.
Still packing the same vicious bite now as it did then, this is some absolutely engaging work that was simply beginning to take shape as the roots of death metal were still being explored and developed. While the music might still be considered thrash for the most part, the absolutely phenomenal work throughout here at developing the kind of tight, vicious thrash-based riffing gives this such a sense of boundless energy and full-throttle speed during their rampaging moments that there’s a genuine sense of chaotic energy apparent throughout this as there’s an unhinged and reckless piece of enthusiasm given to what’s on display here as tracks like “The Battle of Armageddon,” “Sadistic Sinner” and “Blaspheming Prophets” attest to. This creates a series of savage, primitive riffs played at rather ferocious tempos all the while being augmented by blasting drumming and rabid, snarling vocals that are dirtier and far more demonic than most true thrash bands were doing at the time, truly giving this a feel more in line with where death metal was going than in staying in league with the thrash scene at the time. Indeed, as tracks like “Voices from the Grave,” “Hunger for Power” and the title track clearly show, the groundwork for the genre is there in the unbridled speed and aggression that were to be found in the later works from the Floridian pioneers still experimenting with these sounds which would come into greater prominence in the next couple years that would solidify the genre as a whole.
Taken in whole, it’s quite easy to see the impact this record has on the death metal scene in general with what was starting to come out around the same time. The riff-work here is extreme thrash both in attitude and execution with plenty of tight rhythmic work and blazing speed that are truly drenched in the more frenzied and chaotic spectrum of the genre yet the grimy atmosphere and darkly rhythms here are absolutely perfect for dynamic death metal here by allowing a place for the speed-driven rhythms to marry themselves to the darker atmospherics present in this new-found genre. Due to the raw savagery and primal energy present in these riffs, death metal as a whole was able to adopt itself out as a legitimate force in the metal community rather than just simply being called something as stupid and innocuous as Extreme Thrash or Satanic Metal or other such nonsense. That kind of energy and darkness came from releases like this one that wraps it all together into an absolutely amazing and stunning overall effort.
As an added bonus, this release comes complete with the Surrounded by Death demo that was originally released the year before this release, and features fine if low-fi interpretations of four classic tracks from the main album. “Serpent Temptation” is a big, indecipherable blur of speed and rampaging drumming that buries the riffing changes in the wall of fuzz on the original tape but still contains the same ruthless aggression and energy as the properly-recorded version and still sounds like the same song for the most part, being the most impressive track on the tape. “Sadistic Sinner” comes off a bit slower than the studio version as the riffing doesn’t seem as tight and focused, but again it’s the raw ferocity and energy that the song contains which makes it so ravenous and enjoyable. “Voices from the Grave” is again a little slower than its main version and oddly loses the riffing in the fuzz of the release as it’s only the drum-patterns that make it recognizable as such since the riff-work is an incomprehensible blur but makes up for a lot of that with some absolutely ripping speed and energy throughout. “Incubus (Opprobrium)” is the other big winner here as this one goes all-out for sheer speed, blistering drumming and ravenous rhythms that make for a truly enjoyable effort here that doesn’t seem all that far removed from it’s release version and makes this a truly enjoyable bonus.
The first reissue of “Serpent Temptation” from 1996
For the most part, this is an essential record, not just because of the lasting influence it’s left behind by having scores of imitators taking cues from this release but also by containing such admittedly impressive material in the first place that it’s a truly timeless release. Given all that, this is most assuredly the best possible version to pick up for this release, going back to the original mix while featuring some ripping demo tracks as a nice bonus on top of that. Definitely pick this one up if you’re a true blue dyed-in-the-wool death metal fanatic or looking to get away from all the retro/throwback acts and give the real thing a chance.