SERPENTFYRE: Baptism Of Shadows
Release year: 2022
Label: Altare Productions
I don’t quite remember when I realized that Finnish black metal had become a concept emulated the world over, almost a successor to the Norwegian 90’s sound in terms of impact and influence. But I was surprised. Sure, I realized that acts such as Horna, Satanic Warmaster, Behexen and others were shaping a distinct sound, and I knew they were gaining a global following, but it honestly came as a big suprise when emulators of “The Finnish Sound” started popping up just about everywhere. I guess I was too close to the fact to have the right perspective on things. To me, these were bands who’d started out when “The Finnish Sound” wasn’t a thing, and somehow the gradual, almost subtle increase in influence and popularity went unseen for the longest time.
But happen it did, and it seems to me like for the past 10-15 years, the influence of the raw, uncompromising but still melodic Finnish sound has continued pretty much unabated, and isn’t showing any major signs of fading away. One reason for this may well be that Finland itself continues to deliver new bands who continue and expand the established Finnish sound alongside the established veterans.
Serpentfyre from Oulu, Finland can’t exactly be called a new band even though Baptism Of Shadows is only their second full-length. Released on their 10th year of activity, the band certainly cannot be accused of flooding the market with releases: apart from this and their debut album Bestial Mysticism (2015), the band have only released a demo, a split and one EP. Quality over quantity, right…?
That’s at least the conclusion you can draw from Baptism Of Shadows. Predominantly treading very well-trod paths of traditional Finnish black metal with hints of a 90’s sound thrown in, what Serpentfyre lack in originality they compensate for with solid quality. The rather archetypical adjectives to describe Finnish black metal – the ones used above! – can also be used to characterise this album: raw but still melodic, vicious but atmospheric, and so on.
Although leaning towards the speedier end of the spectrum, Serpentfyre rarely go into full-on, balls-to-the-wall blasting. In between, there are plenty of mid-tempo moments, leaving ample room for the guitars to weave their razor-sharp, melodic riffs. On top of these, the vocals are a vicious, coarse and venomous shriek.
For anyone who’s had a finger on the pulse of black metal for the past decade, Baptism Of Shadows will offer nothing new or unheard of. That doesn’t stop it from being a thoroughly convincing slab of Finnish black metal; by this point, I guess one could even call this sound traditional Finnish black metal.
The quintet from Oulu are as of yet one of the shadow-enshrouded names in the Finnish scene. However, should they continue to put out quality releases such as this, I can well see a not-too-distant future, where they stand poised to take on a much more prominent role in the Finnish scene. This album amply testifies they’ve got the musical chops for it… although it may require more than an album every seven years for that to happen.