Serpent’s Kiss are actually a pretty old UK based band, despite all of their material being recently released. They formed in 1980 and disbanded after a few years, only to reform decades later. At the beginning of October 2018, Serpent’s Kiss dropped a full length titled Dragon Lord. Because of where they’re from, it’s pretty obvious that there will be plenty of NWOBHM influence, but there’s actually a fair amount of power metal toppings to be found here. The subject matter, the construction and songwriting, and the epic nature of this monster are what give the strongest hints of this.
With there being only eight tracks, it’s still a pretty lengthy listen. Half of the tracks run for greater than six minutes, and this is where most of the epic buildups and advanced writing take place. Songs like “Sabbatha” and “Winters Eve” almost hone in on progressive elements, riding on tone shifts, swinging of moods, and long drawn out solos that reach extreme levels of technicality. They maintain their momentum by keeping it melodic and crystal clear, backed by nasty heavy rhythm sections. The medieval feel that is sometimes felt adds more to the power metal end of things.
Softer intros are a common feature on Dragon Lord, used mostly to build up to steady melodies that break the ice into the heavier territory. The title track, as well as “Innocence” do a great job of this. The title track especially grabs the attention by sucking your attention in with a clean lick, only to fade into a simple rhythm backed by spacier and slower, yet more thunderous drum beats. So really, there’s plenty to be found here regarding variety. There are slower tracks that kick back the instrumentation a little more and focus on the vocals and lyrics, as well as ones where the guitars are the biggest feature.
Something that does remain constant is the cleanliness of the production and vocal work alike. There is no screaming or harsh vocals of any kind; all clean singing with deep clarity, as the mystical and fantastical lyrics are a big part of the delivery. When the singing is more calm, it’s somewhat reminiscent of Rob Halford (see the title track for this). Of course, there are still darker tracks that can feed those who feast on the more threatening side of metal, for which I would recommend the track “Witches Embers.” Not only is there a haunting intro, but it’s laced with an evil aura and nice effects.
At the bottom of the foundation, this is very much a NWOBHM influenced metal album, but power and prog tactics are everywhere, and you don’t need to search too hard to find. This is easily one of the most well put together albums of this year, which makes sense since all of the musicians involved are very experienced. Fans of Judas Priest, Helloween, Iced Earth, or early Overdose would get a lot out of this. Personally, I ordered this upon first listen.
Dragon Lord was released on October 1st, 2018 and is available in CD and digital formats on Bandcamp, and you can stream all tracks as well.