Python is one of the most obscure, esoteric doom bands that I’ve ever come across. In addition to being damn near impossible to Google, their sound plays like a hellish mix of Death SS, Paul Chain, and the earliest Mercyful Fate recordings as crude occult metal numbers stumble alongside trippy horror ambiance. Their second full-length album, Astrological Warfare, is poised to push these experimental elements to their limits and reinforces the group’s fate as the most niche of the niche.
Astrological Warfare nails that early 80s demo vibe with everything that such a distinction would entail. The sound is completely devoid of polish as the mix is muffled and the production is incredibly raw, resulting in drums that hit like cardboard and an overbearingly fuzzy guitar tone. This unhinged nature extends to the actual instrumentation as the rhythm occasionally hiccup, riffs meander, and the vocals fly into King Diamond-style falsettos seemingly at random.
This template will be an instant turn-off for many listeners, but the album’s heightened atmosphere gives some method to its madness. There’s a full commitment to the old school horror aesthetic that makes for a disorienting yet endearing listen. It also helps that the writing is more competent than the slapdash playing would suggest as the more conventional metal songs like “This Flame Burns Forever” and “Aeons Has Fallen” (Holy ESL, Batman!) put in some solid riffs while the ambient pieces have just enough variety and flowing segments to keep from feeling pointless.
But even if you’re sold on the aesthetic at hand, Astrological Warfare is still a tough album to get through. The seventy-minute runtime is exhausting in itself, but it gets even more so when the metal numbers don’t grab one as much as they could, and the ambient tracks would still likely benefit from some shaved runtimes. Wantonly jumping between the two styles arguably contributes to the weirdness but grouping the songs of each style onto separate sides would make for a more easily digestible effort.
While Python is seemingly going out of their way to alienate as many listeners as possible, their second album is a fascinating experimental doom venture. Those who aren’t instantly turned away by the lo-fi eccentricities will be challenged by its duration, but the creepy vibe is unlike anything out there. Some shorter runtimes and a rearranged track listing would’ve made for a slightly higher grade, but there’s great stuff here for the most patient. It isn’t quite a “so bad, it’s good” album but it makes for a unique trip through all-out insanity.
“This Flame Burns Forever”
“Aeons Has Fallen”
“Land of Phantoms”