SERPENTINE - CIRCLE OF KNIVES - AOR HEAVEn - Rating: 8/10
In what can be described as a sublime year for AOR, and rock in general, 2015 has seen a vast number of quality releases, globally. Veterans of the genre, such as FM, supergroup Revolution Saints, and legend rockers Scorpions, are a few of the names that spring to mind, mainly due to the sheer quality of their new material. Amongst those names is a fast emerging South Wales based band, Serpentine.
Since Serpentine's formation in 2007, the band has seen some misfortune. Loss of original singer Tony Mills due to ill health meant that the band had to search for a new singer who could match the ability of Mills. Inevitably, Matt Black was recruited, but after touring with Serpentine and working on new material, decided to part ways due to musical differences. Shortly after this news, bassist Gareth Vanstone had to leave the band, following a lengthy period of ill health. Subsequently, Serpentine has had to set off in a new direction, quickly paving the way for their most recent additions - bassist Owen Crawford and frontman Adam Payne. With a fresh line-up that brings pure talent to the table, Serpentine has been reborn in the form of newest album, Circle Of Knives, released via AOR Heaven.
'Season Of The Witch' is a fantastic opening track to an album that has no lack of hard-hitting riffs and killer melodies. Accompanied by Adam Payne's astounding vocal range, this album is destined to be a favourite. The base of this track is formed by a kicking melody which supports an interesting story style lyrical approach.
'La Tragedienne' demands instant attention with a powerful guitar intro from Chris Gould, which is met effortlessly with a dreamy guitar solo. This is one of those tracks where you sing your heart out. It's a sterling example of song writing, and quite frankly, ‘cuts like a knife’!
Track three, 'Forever', is another example of what it takes to construct a quality rock song. Whilst the rhythm maintains a constant driving beat, the vocals take almost complete control with a complimentary guitar solo defining the track. I can just imagine the crowds singing along, word by word.
'The Hardest Fall' - wow! That solo! Gould doesn't fail to impress. Bold statement solos and driving riffs in all the right places. It's fair to say that these songs could go head to head with the likes of supergroup Revolution Saints' efforts on their 2015 self-titled album (which I regard as one of the best releases of 2015, so far)!It’s utterly fantastic and offers no compromise of 'Serp' style force that we've already experienced in such a small slice of this album.
Get your lighters in the air! 'Bleed', the fourth track on the album, takes things back a pace. Not quite a ballad, it still manages to create an eerie atmosphere that provokes emotion, whilst demonstrating that this band isn't all about being a driving force. It flaunts the musical ability of the band, aside from what we may, typically, associate with Serpentine. This track is dominated equally by each member who bring sterling musicianship to the centre stage.
It strikes me that Serpentine are very successful at writing both ballads and uplifting, anthemic songs that work perfectly side by side. The fifth and sixth tracks onCircle Of Knives highlight this statement perfectly. Though very different in approach, they are both unmistakably 'Serp' and both equally as captivating. At this point in an album, you can usually determine if you're a fan or not... but with this album, I've already repeated each song numerous times, sang along and played a bit of air guitar, and not because of review purposes. I'm already sold.
Title track 'Circle Of Knives' is following in the footsteps of the opening songs on the album, back to more familiar territory. It's a showcase of each musician working together as a collective, rather than overriding accompanying sounds, and though I can't directly compare this song to an existing track, it feels like déjà vu. It's got the subtly medieval/fantasy influenced melody, the soaring vocals and it combines everything I love about this genre, in one kick-ass bundle.
When the keyboard is ripping it up as much as the guitar, it's great, isn't it? That's exactly what you get with 'Such A Long Way Down'. Like previous tracks, it's pretty much faultless.
The tenth, and final track 'Suicide Days', is launched to great heights by Adam Payne's impeccable vocal range, working side by side with Chris Gould's driving guitar riffs, Owen Crawford's bass lines and Roy Millward's tight rhythms. All of these elements give this track a razor-sharp edge that is nothing short of a favourite on this album.
In an industry that's hard to break, it's clear that Serpentine have all the elements it takes to smash through the surface and leave a lasting impression on everyone that's got the sense to give this album a shot. Up there with what I regard as, not only the best albums of early 2015, but the strongest AOR albums to be released in a long while, Serpentine have struck gold, and clearly have much success coming their way.
Adam Payne – Vocals
Chris Gould – Lead and Rhythm Guitar
Gareth David Noon – Keyboards
Owen Crawford – Bass Guitar
Roy Millward – Drums
01. Season Of The Witch
02. La Tragedienne
04. The Hardest Fall
06. Where Does Your Heart Beat Now
07. Bound By The Strings Of Discord
08. Circle Of Knives
09. Such A Long Way Down
10. Suicide Days
Review by: Christiane Robinson