Reviews for “The Serpent’s Kiss”
Formed in 2010 by Maggiebeth Sand and Mark Powell, English symphonic rock/metal band, Serpentyne, are authors of a musical movement characterised by a merging of sound and styles.
Their first album, “Stella Splendens” (2010) was based solely on medieval music and mythical themes featuring the ethereal voice of Maggiebeth Sand and Mark Powell’s strings. Their second, “Myths and Muses” (2014) added elements of world and dance music to the band’s sound. “Myths and Muses” is an album with a very different spirit from “Stella Splendens-“ more lively, and rhythmic, and less “classic”.
In September 2016 came the latest, “The Serpent’s Kiss”, which further changes direction from the sound point of view while preserving the mythical themes of previous albums.
“The Serpent’s Kiss” consists of a symphonic rock / metal foundation that uses more diverse ethnic nuances while maintaining a genuine “British” base. The ghost of the past is always present, but the centerpiece is Maggiebeth Sand, whose subtle voice, similar to Loorena McKennitt’s (for unmistakable air) and Candice Night (for sweetness) gives a sacred, refined aura, yet an extremely powerful emotion to the songs.
There is an incandescent and sunny arabian elegance in the original song, “Spirits of the Desert,” an exotic style that also gives the epic title track “The Serpent’s Kiss” a mysterious and obscure sensuality. However, the title track has a chameleon style and in its structure there are melodic themes from a couple of Macedonian melodies.
“The Dark Queen” is notable for the almost perverse apocalyptic darkness and sensuality but it is, at the same time, an enthusiastic and gritty epic.
“Helen Of Troy” and “Brigantia” differ from other songs with their military, martial and solemn epic sound. Where “Helen of Troy” seems to be totally infused with the dramatic and tragic Greek myth, in “Brigantia” (the Celtic goddess) there is the liveliness of a Celtic, Pagan touch.
“Jeanne d’Arc” for almost a minute features a whispering prayer (somewhat disturbing to tell the truth) and then jumps into a sound between the Celtic and the medieval- between the sacredness and a bright and adventurous vivacity.
“Lammas Night” and “Morrighan’s Jig” share by a strongly Celtic, pagan liveliness. In “Lammas Night” the rhythms are powerful and savage, with arrangements of dance music that link the song to the previous album “Myths And Muses”. It incorporates a traditional Croatian melody.
“Morrighan’s Jig” is based on two jigs (a form of lively folk music spread in infinite forms in many regions of Europe) blending powerful rock structure, medieval arrangements, dance and cutting progressive solos. The Morrighan or “ghost queen” is a character of the Irish myth.
“Salterello” originates from the 14th century Italy. The Serpentyne version is an energetic dance tune with cutting-edge solo guitars of neoclassic metal, dance arrangements and piano touches jumping out.
“Viking Blood” as a title it is dominated by Nordic Viking sounds, with the abundant use of nyckelharpa and the virtuoso, cutting-edge guitar and keyboards that are derived from prog-rock. This is the only track in which lead vocals feature Nigel Middleton (the band’s bassist) who delivers a very good vocal performance.
The concluding “Game of Thrones” is a cover of the soundtrack of the same TV series, a passionate, solemn and mysterious piece, with bluesy guitar. It then develops in a dreamlike style propped up by a passionate solo of neoclassical style and fairy-tale choirs. Serpentyne’s cover is better than the original, with a moving intensity.
Serpentyne’s “The Serpent’s Kiss” aligns with symphonic metal bands like Epica, Within Temptation and Nightwish, but also with the folk-rock of Blackmore’s Night and the Celtic metal of Eluveitie. Serpentyne’s symphonic metal is definitely less pompous than the songs of many exponents of the genre.
Maggie Sand’s voice combines, expression, technique and timbre, to have a certain originality in the folk / symphonic panorama. Great and charismatic is also the voice of bassist Nigel Middleton, who sometimes, in timbre and stylistically reminds you of David Byron of Uriah Heep (not the falsetto.)
The musicians are technically very advances, and “The Serpent’s Kiss” as a whole is a good album, well-inspired. Having changed the sound has helped the band; there is a good margin of improvement in this direction.
Recommended for folk metal / rock lovers who like symphonic metal guitars.
True Metal Magazine, Italy (English translation.)
Here’s the original: http://www.truemetal.it/recensioni/the-serpent-s-kiss-88095
I love female fronted bands. I love male fronted bands. If I were to choose between them I’d take them both. Yes, I am terrible at deciding. I want ’em all instead. And thanks to this incredible opportunity I got reviewing recordings I don’t have to choose. Their music on this album is being described as symphonic rock. What struck me at first when I heard this album is how much it made me think of Gary Moore’s “Over The Hills”. It has that same Celtic/Irish feel to it. That should bring the Nightwish fans to this band. This is also very much (hard)rock based in a folk music tradition. And in that sense this has vibes of Skyclad without sounding too much like them. It also has vibes of folk/pagan/heathen metal without the growls. This is an album that has the potential to appeal to a wide variety of metal fans.
Anders Ekdahl, Battlehelm, April 2017.
Formed in 2010 by Maggiebeth Sand and Mark Powell, the band’s debut focussed on mediaeval music styles with mythical themes, and pulled out some great vocal performances from Maggiebeth, supplemented by Mark’s hurdy-gurdy playing. It left them looking to book the same crowds as Blackmore’s Night.
Not wanting to be pigeonholed, the band added world and dance music to the follow-up, and now they deliver similar lyrical content but have gone down the symphonic rock route. Given that the genre is almost at saturation point (think hair metal in the late 1980s) to stand out from the crowd needs something very special indeed. It would be easy to argue that mediaeval music with world and dance music elements would stand alone and give people a reason to listen, but a lot of that has gone on this disc in favour of a true symphonic rock sound.
Lyrically, it’s business as usual; historic figures feature, like Helen of Troy and Joan of Arc, and the storytelling paints grand vistas as the history lessons evolve around you. Mark Powell’s instrument of choice makes a notable appearance, front and centre on ‘Lammas Night,’ and it’s from this point onwards that the individuality of the band starts to shine through once more. The gothic-tinged, folk-led elements that the band have become known for; adding arabesque elements to the mix, ensure that songs like the album’s title track really stand out. The bass work on ‘Salterello’ adds another layer, turning the song into a jig-along sea shanty.
The closing few tracks hold attention, as ‘Viking Blood’ leaves us standing soaked in red, in the midst of a battlefield. Similarly, ‘Brigantia’ inspires imagery of marching hordes.
After the fun of ‘Morrighan’s Jig,’ closing track ‘Game of Thrones’ is, as hoped for, the band’s interpretation of the theme music from the iconic TV show, and a great finale to a very interesting album. Rich in content and steeped in folklore, Serpentyne have thankfully managed to find room in the genre.
Powerplay magazine, UK, February 2017
Mystic Symphonic Rock…
Enjoy a long, intense kiss – with a forked tongue.
While the previous album, “Myths and Muses” was a wonderful interpretation of traditional tunes, the focus of the third album is on original compositions, with a move towards a rock sound. Even the well-known “Salterello” features grandiose electric guitar.
Serpentyne always favour the dramatic, such as “Helen of Troy,” the triumphant “Jeanne D’Arc,” and the instrumental, “Morrighan’s Jig,” which is based on the legend of the mythical queen from Irish mythology. Not to be forgotten – after all, the sextet is from Great Britain – is “Brigantia,” about the Celtic goddess.
The title track, on the other hand, has an oriental sound, and a surprising new interpretation of the Game of Thrones can also be found.
Through this fusion of medieval sounds with biting electric guitars and pounding drums Serpentyne develops further. The serpent has arisen!
Claudia Zinn-Zinnenburg, Orkus magazine, Germany, January 2017.
…Serpentyne… embrace galloping rhythms from the power-metal genre. Nightwish comparisons might seem unavoidable, at least initially. But by the fourth track “Jeanne D”Arc”, the fusion of Mark Powell’s hurdy-gurdy and Maggiebeth Sand’s angelic/operatic voice atop heavy guitar riffs confirms Serpentyne’s uniquely adventurous approach to genre bending.
Serpentyne smartly knows when to diverge toward keeping things fresh.
Instrumental “Saltarello” for instance, includes an unexpectedly jazzy piano solo.
‘Morrighan’s Jig” sounds like that collaboration Thin Lizzy and the Chieftains never got around to pulling off.
The exotically ethnic, celebratory “Lammas Night” (incorporating a traditional Croatian tune) will inspire wild dancing under the next full moon.
And melodic themes from a pair of traditional Macedonian tunes lend beguiling intrigue to the title track.
Orchestrations thought “The Serpent’s Kiss” add cinematic majesty to compositions inspired by romanticized historical figures/events and mysticism. All is topped off by a gorgeous six-minute plus extrapolation of the “Game of Thrones” theme! What’s not to love?
**** (4 Stars)
Dewey Gurall, Progression Magazine USA, October 2016.
…It all works rather well, this being showcased in the opening salvo, ‘Spirits of the Desert’ and ‘The Dark Queen’. ‘Helen of Troy’ is a melodic belter; whilst I just love pipes, with ‘Jeanne D’Arc’ featuring said pipes, this track bounces along rather nicely – one of my faves from the record in fact.
The pipes appear again on ‘Lammas Night’… another catchy up lifting track- surely it is about time for me to go out and light that camp fire :).
The mid-tempo title track has a kinda Middle Eastern vibe which is of no surprise, as the number is inspired by the story of Anthony and Cleopatra. The remaining five tracks maintain the bouncy up tempo feel… I am however, interested in the number ‘Viking Blood’ as it does sound familiar to me.
This album is awesome stuff and well worth a punt of anyone’s well earnt dosh! A great effort!
Dave Smith, Ravenheart, UK, October 2016.
“Tarja meets Solstice…”
‘Prog’ magazine, UK, previewing the first completed track from Serpentyne’s forthcoming CD, ‘The Serpent’s Kiss.’ November 2015.
…an earthy, corporeal throb that goads the listener restlessly into movement… If you see the band live, be prepared to sweat buckets, but until then, this manages to trap a fair bit of the magic for your home listening pleasure.”
Oz Hardwick, R2 Magazine.
I really like this album and it may be my favourite release this year. Serpentyne is a breath of fresh air.
Henry Schneider, Expose Online, July 2015.
…As I listened to this CD, comparisons to the band ‘Korai Öröm’ often came to mind. I recommend listening to this album on headphones, so that you can hear the discreet orchestrations that may not be so obvious on speakers.
Perhaps I am starting to be a bit boring as this is my fourth consecutive 8-point review, but I can’t, and don’t want to give less.
Metal Shavings Magazine, Hungary.
…a masterclass in how it should be done.
Gary Trueman, The Independent Voice.
…a fantastic listen.
There’s a bit of an Evocation I – The Arcane Dominion (the Eluveitie album) vibe to it at times, which certainly isn’t a bad thing, and it’s an all-round well-constructed piece that draws you in and maintains your interest… but honestly, the album just sounds that accessible that it could well appeal to fans of all genres. A job well done!”
Natalie Humphries, Soundscape.
The passion simply oozes from this mesmerising album!
It is virtually impossible not to get caught up in this album as track after track is like a magnet it seduces and pulls you toward its dramatic encounters. Serpentyne are indeed a force to be reckoned with and offer some sounds that demand attention and will certainly get it!”
Pagan Tordengrav, Demented magazine, UK.
“The Middle Ages are not over yet. They still survive, suspended in an underground limbo populated by an imaginary of symbols, myths and legends. Now and again, they come to light inspiring artistic works and revealing an enviable originality, despite the centuries on their shoulders. The latest work released by the London-based Serpentyne can be easily ascribed to this commemorative process.
In this way, side by side with classical instruments like the cittern, the hurdy-gurdy and even the citole (the Medieval guitar), the band present modern ones like synthesizers and keyboards or exotic like the didgeridoo, the bouzouki and the bağlama (an Eastern lute).
Despite old Norse mythological themes (‘The Valkyries’ and ‘Freya’s Firedance’), Occitan music patterns (‘Les Garcon de Montagne’) and omnipresent Celtic references are still crucial elements when considering the band’s inspiration, what deeply marks the ensemble’s new compositions is the addition of a decisive electronic environment, which rejuvenates and revamps Serpentyne’s artistry.
In this way, Myths & Muses outwits the genre’s borders… thanks to its unpredictability, its eccentricity and its alluring dancey moments, it can easily intrigue music lovers at large.”
Marco Canepari, Access All Areas magazine, April 2015.
…this is an assured, polished and compelling release from a band that sound right at the top of their game.
Andy Stout, Pagan Dawn, April 2015
“Here’s a thought for the dullards in charge of the UK’s annual Eurovision efforts. Why not ask Serpentyne to sing for us next year?
I have no idea what the band would feel about that. But I do know that the rousing fusion of their beats and the ‘Game of Thrones’ vibe of their spectacular act is more in tune with broader European musical tastes than anything we’ve entered in the last two decades.
Piers Ford, The Art of the Torch Singer, March 2015