17 March 2014
by Pete Long
Serpent Eater may be new the the scene even if most of their members are not (with bands such as Throats, Hammerhead and Daskrill on their collective resume). Hyena isn’t perhaps the hardcore album you might expect though. It’s a melting pot of a record – you might think about calling them crust, or maybe sludge, but it’s more probably more to the point to describe them as semi-coherent fury.
The production seems to be aiming for low-fi but distinct; it doesn’t disguise the music as ‘Ebola’ cranks open the album with a suitably catchy hook. The guitar tone sounds a little like Slaughter of the Soul-era At the Gates on the high notes while the low end of the album feels solid and fuzzy, like a hobo’s beard. ‘Ebola’ itself has a mean groove and slightly psychedelic tinge before dissolving into fairly standard sounding black metal. The latter section doesn’t feel out of place, just not as interesting. ‘Last Cold Word’ sounds a bit like Dissection to begin with and ends sounding a bit rock n’ roll.
The title track really commands attention though, with its breakneck opening and unbridled aggression. There’s a particularly nice section of funeral sludge jammed in the middle of the song which along with the chaotic ‘Leitmotiv’ makes for the strongest part of the album. The album finished with that slightly old school feel again and plenty of blastbeats on ‘Trepanation Nation’.
The more orthodox black metal parts of this album don’t grab the attention as much as the diverse, hybrid elements. They’re one of the thing that it feels like Serpent Eater can only do solidly at best at this point. What they do get right though is great – a little different and never repetitive. It’s both a little catchy and a lot aggressive.
Ultimately, it feels like the next album from Serpent Eater is the one to look out for, unless their black metal parts do it for you. That shouldn’t detract from the worth of this album though; genre-bending may be a commonplace thing these days, but this is an ambitious attempt that gets a lot right.
Sounds Like: A bit of everything layered onto some extreme metal
Standout Tracks: Ebola, Hyena, Leitmotiv