Every once in a while I come across an album/movie/book that I feel was made specifically with me in mind, like the artist(s) crawled into my psyche, observed my absolute favorite things, and crafted something to transform my day from totally mediocre to fist-pumpingly awesome. Hyena, the newest album from Cologne, Germany’s Serpent Eater, is one of those albums that I consider a personal gift.
With an inspired mixture of wasteland sludge and icy, dizzying black metal, Hyena feels like Howl’s excellent Full of Hell LP if it spent its childhood scavenging rancid meat from sewer tunnels in an abandoned factory town. Released from Alerta Antifascista Records, this album is a mean, muscular, metallic beast that somehow sidesteps predictability while still featuring conservatively structured, contagious songs that would watch you for hours from the shadows, just to bite your throat out the moment you start dreaming.
Album opener “Ebola” introduces a mixture of bluesy groove and swirling, psychedelic black metal with demonic dual-vocals. “Last Cold Word” features more snarling, scorched riffs that bathe in the muck dividing Immortal and Dragged Into Sunlight, like black swamp water frozen during the first frost. The guitars capture a sense of gothic dread and still achieve nearly impossible catchiness. “In the Wall” invokes Slayer’s thrashing anger over a rumbling beat that builds to vicious grind, maintaining punk intensity even when injecting some dopesmoking harmonized guitars into the mix. Hyena closes with the dynamic track “Trepanation Nation,” featuring a blizzard of blastbeats and At the Gates riffage with a grimy underbelly of sludgy groove and lumbering explosions of hardcore.
Largely due to their cackling sounds and comedic-relief roles in The Lion King, most people don’t realize hyenas are surprisingly savage animals, and unexpectedly fierce foes that lions battle on a constant basis. It’s not unusual for a pack of hyenas to lure a mother lion away from her young, only to have another sneak in and feast on the babies. Not that Serpent Eater encourage the fervent murder of lion cubs, but it’s a reminder of the necessary cruelty of nature’s order, and right now Serpent Eater can quit relying on snakes for nourishment, because this album proves they’re a formidable predator quickly eating their way up the food chain. Despite some similarities to recent work by I Exist and Vaporizer, Hyena absolutely feels fresh and unique, and shows us what’s possible in extreme music when contrast, tone, mood, texture, and the art of a killer riff are all fully explored.
Check out Hyena, streaming on Bandcamp now, and available for a modest 4 EUR: http://alertaantifascistarecords.bandcamp.com/album/aa95-serpent-eater-hyena-lp
And follow them on Facebook to stay current with all their news: https://www.facebook.com/SerpentEater