WARNING: The review you are about to read contains irresponsible and vast usage of words such as "beautiful", "sadness", "great", "unbelievable" and in conjunction "guitar harmonies and riffs". The review also contains a good amount of name-dropping and a dangerously enthusiastic approach to the band in question. Precautionary actions advised.
SERENADE's been around for nine years already (eight at the time of the release) and "The Serpents Dance" is their third full-length. According to the info they adopted a heavier sound with their 2000 released MCD "Plague Of Time" and continued on down that road with the new CD. The info also categorises the band as Progressive Death Metal but even though there are Progressive elements this is mostly just good old Doom/Death Metal.
SERENADE have an unbelievable knack with making great, sad guitar harmonies and riffs the like of MY DYING BRIDE, older ANATHEMA and "Icon" era PARADISE LOST. But those are just relations, because SERENADE has a pretty original sound. Tracks like ""Slaves Of Chaos", "Dying Light" or "Armageddon Comes" are all prime examples of the beautiful sadness SERENADE is able to conjure.
Actually there's not one song that didn't hit me right on the initial listen. They all have great aspects to them, most of all the guitar work. I can't emphasise enough how great it is! But there's so much more. The compositions are carefully put together in order to get them to flow like hot butter. The speed is mostly slow to mid-tempo but additionally gains more speed with the help of blastbeats ("Dying Light"). The drums rarely come out as strongly as that but instead find their own niche and melt in the flow of the music. And by that they sort of emphasise the guitars even more and create a kind of a contradiction with their more happier sound (huh?) opposed to the brooding darkness of the guitars. The result is very interesting to say the least!
Doom/Death Metal may not offer the most diverse playground to begin with but SERENADE makes the most of what they've got. In that sense this reminds me of a certain Finnish RAPTURE. Both bands are able to create such enthralling musical sadness mostly by using beautiful guitar harmonies and riffs. But whereas RAPTURE takes advantage of dual vocals SERENADE relies on one singer alone. Raynor's (MITHRAS) voice is rough and deep and suits the saddened music well. Especially the chorus of "Betrayal Of Faith" is amazing. Now I promised myself I wouldn't say this but seeing how much I simply love RAPTURE I must. Because just like RAPTURE did also the Scottish SERENADE has instantly secured themselves a warm place in my darkened heart.
Downsides are really hard to find here but if you must seek then the cover is pretty weak and the booklet is hard to read even though the font is awesome. Raynor's vocals are very good, but somehow I feel they could've been even better. Another downside is that the label is relatively small and perhaps cannot offer the band as much support as it would certainly deserve. Now I'm afraid that too few will hear of this masterpiece and that's a crying shame.
So, if you're like me and deliberately seek to be saddened from time to time this is a perfect choice. If you like any or all of the bands I mentioned above then this is the perfect choice to accompany them with. And if you like beautiful (and sad) guitar harmonies and riffs then this is the perfect choice my friend. Get one while they're still available (most of the previous SERENADE CDs are sold out (!)) and be happily drenched in sadness.
Still hesitating? Download a couple of samples from the label's homepage and hear for yourself. (We already have them above in the tracklist - Alex) (Online January 14, 2004)