If there’s one thing I can praise about Witchthroat Serpent’s third full-length album Swallow the Venom, it’s that they finally got a solid intro track. The voodoo elements on “Feu Sacré” aren’t mind blowing by any means but it sets the tone without running too long or seeming self-indulgent. I’m not one to harp on intros or even acknowledge them beyond a passing mention, but they obviously play a role in how one will perceive the rest of the material.
But going past the intro, Swallow the Venom continues the French group’s fixation on psychedelic fuzz doom. The songs are driven by bass heavy riffs, wah-laden leads, and hustling drums, but the overall tone may be rawer than their first two albums. The guitar tone is incredibly dry, and the vocals continue to avoid the reverb and distortion effects that are common with their fellow Electric Wizard acolytes.
The resulting sound is noticeably less warm than earlier albums, which doesn’t exactly help the still pedestrian songwriting. The songs are varied enough to stand out from one another but there aren’t any that I’d deem true staples. That said, I do like the drawn-out psychedelics on “Pauper’s Grave” and the unusually titled “Scorpent Serpion” manages to be sufficiently groovy.
Witchthroat Serpent’s third full-length album is probably their most well-rounded so far but doesn’t exactly advance their sound. With the songwriting at the same solid but unexceptional level of its predecessors, choosing a highlight will likely come down to a listener’s production preferences. I personally prefer the comparably warmer sound of 2016’s Sang-Dragon but at the end of the day, there’s better stuff in this style out there. This album isn’t bad, and Witchthroat Serpent isn’t a bad band, but the Monolord continues to reign supreme in the stoner doom world.