While Ave Vindicta is the band’s first album, Serpents of Secrecy are no strangers to the Maryland doom scene, featuring members of Sixty Watt Shaman, Borracho, King Giant and the late Jim Forrester, who was callously murdered in Baltimore in 2017. After his death, these tunes understandably sat on the shelf for a while, before being dusted off and polished up by the band in honour of their fallen brother.
The title track kicks this record off with a lumbering, heavy groove, which certainly brings the Old Bay-seasoned riffage of King Giant or Borracho to mind. The verse is spare and looming, leading into a raw, heavy chorus, before picking up the pace to a driving, stoner-rock rhythm around the midway mark. The bass intro to “Heel Turn” brings Kyuss to mind, and this one grooves along like an old-school desert rocker, albeit with a vocal-driven verse more akin to Fu Manchu, and rougher, sandpaper vocals. So maybe somewhere between Fu Manchu and Orange Goblin?
“The Cheat” feels a little like a Soundgarden ballad at the beginning, although the angry hardcore-style vocals give it a more aggressive tone, as it spirals towards its sinister conclusion. The intro riff to “Time Crushes All” lives up to its name – Maryland-style doom at its finest. However, like many of the other numbers on here, the first couple verses are driven by the vocals, without much in the way of riffage until the bridge…we’re about 3:30 in before we get another solid doomy riff. And with 11 tracks spanning over 52 minutes, they seem to go back to this similar song structure more than a couple times.
“Warbird’s Song” is a more up-tempo number that brings Borracho to mind, albeit with a slower, forlorn section around the midway mark, while the refrain of “The dead will rise again/A ghost, my only friend” in “Orphan’s Dream” takes on an eerie new meaning. The last two songs “Broke the Key” and “In the Lock” flow directly into each other, with the latter ending things on a religious note, complete with an extended, wailing guitar solo, and vocals replicating a southern Baptist revival. It sounds a little wacky, but it works, in kind of a downtrodden, Neil Fallon, sort of way…
(Moving the Earth Records)