Serpent Saints

rating icon 7 / 10

Track listing:

01. Serpent Saints
02. Masters of Death
03. Amok
04. In the Blood
05. When In Sodom
06. Thy Kingdom Coma
07. Ministry
08. The Dead, The Dying, and the Dying to Be Dead
09. Warfare, Plague, Famine, Death
10. The Ten Commandments

After the soggy and forgettable "Inferno" four long years ago, just the fact that ENTOMBED sounds like they wanted to be in the studio for this one is a cause for celebration. They're back on the death-and-roll machine, with a little more emphasis on the death side of things, and things start out promising with the vicious title track (and its gleeful appropriation of MOTÖRHEAD's "Iron Fist"). The maniacally cheesy "Masters of Death" is a hoot, too, if only because of its SLAYER plagiarism and roll call of classic '80s and early '90s death metal legends (any song that name-drops FILTHY CHRISTIANS and UNSEEN TERROR in the same lyric can't be all bad, after all).

Unfortunately, the creeping malaise that sometimes plagues ENTOMBED seeps back in after these two songs. Things get less fun, more stodgy, and more boring pretty quick with the unimpressive "Amok" and "In the Blood" — rote death metal with a stale groove and a distinct lack of enthusiasm. "When In Sodom", a mock-sinister growler with a great chorus and over-the-top bridge, sporting more ridiculous lyrical puns than a SKYCLAD box set, gets things back on track. It becomes more and more evident as the record progresses that ENTOMBED circa 2007 is at its best when at their most ridiculous — shouting “666!" and happily blasting out thrashy clichés or being as deliberately silly as possible.

After all, it doesn't get much goofier than the thudding chorus of "The Dead, The Dying, and the Dying To Be Dead", but it's definitely a high point of "Serpent Saints". "Warfare, Plague, Famine, Death" blows the door off with simple buzzsaw thrashing and old-school abandon, and it sounds like the band is having a fucking blast playing it, which comes across in spades. There's nothing quite like that sick buzzsaw guitar tone, L-G Petrov roaring at his most drunkenly ferocious, and the DISCHARGE punk gallop of the rhythm section to make an ENTOMBED fan smile.

Perhaps after twenty years of doing this, ENTOMBED can only keep themselves jazzed by not taking things too seriously — and that's fine, the death metal world could use fewer grim faces. It's just too bad they couldn't maintain that level of fun and rocked-out abandon throughout the whole of "Serpent Saints". It's about 60% of a really great record, which might be acceptable from another band who hadn't raised the bar so high – but as "Uprising", "Wolverine Blues", "Clandestine" and "Left Hand Path" have proven to the world, ENTOMBED is capable of more. A grudging 7, though probably a solid 8 from anyone else.

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