Everyone who is familiar with the Greek extreme metal scene knows exactly what Karma Violens are capable of. The band, maintaining a low profile and without much record promotion (their first album was self-released), placed themselves abruptly around 10 years ago among the foremost bands of the genre with their powerful, grooving metalcore, which only commercially acclaimed foreign bands have composed.
“Dormancy” and “Skin of Existence” thrilled us with a threefold of death, thrash and black metal elements, showcasing musicians who incorporate –and not imitate- their influences in a way that balances aggression and brutality on the one hand and melodic patterns on the other. However, Karma Violens’ musicianship and technical skills, becoming more evident in the second album, implied that the band wished to evolve further, to make another step that would reveal something hidden, something that we were unaware of. Hence, I publicly blame Karma for making me really impatient to listen to their third album “Serpent God”, as my curiosity to find out what they have done this time was rather annoying. Indeed, my impatience was absolutely justified.
“Serpent God” is a conceptual album, dealing with issues like freedom, religion (and the associated “musts”) and theocracy, representing the band’s dispute for widely accepted beliefs. Therefore, it differs from the two previous records, creating - in accordance with its lyrical content - a darker and gloomier atmosphere. In that sense, I consider the last song of the previous album (“Dead Man’s Story”) an early sign of the direction that the band would follow.
In “Serpent God” Karma Violens maintain their metalcore aggression and modern, distinctive, groovy riffing; however, they reveal a more black metal influence, something that reminded me of bands like Belphegor and Behemoth. That feature becomes obvious from the short intro of the album, which leads us to the darkness via wind instruments and background chants.
Karma Violens didn’t hesitate to experiment and demonstrate their confidence, composing songs with more complex structure and tempo changes; in this respect, they made their work more diverse through melodic and atmospheric/acoustic parts that intervene insightfully between death/black insane riffs via amazing breakdowns. Notice the slow -almost doom - first half of the homonymous song (unusual indeed for Karma Violens) and the genius interchange of tempos in “Sons of Destruction”, “The Dark Morel” (probably the peak of the album), “Radix Malorum” and “Blood Aurora”.
The band has made an excellent work on composing atmospheric and acoustic parts, surprising us pleasantly; that new element is used effectively and not pretentiously, since it succeeds in enriching many songs with a sense of calmness that eases the groovy storm. Indicatively, songs like “Sons of Destruction”, “The Sun I Never Had” and “Dark Morel” reveal a delicate aspect that changes drastically the feeling they put across.
The guitar section of the band (George and Costas) has made a brilliant work regarding Karma Violens’ traditional groovy nature, including raging, “bulky” death riffs, black metal sounding-like-razor outbursts, breakdowns that act as a protective pier against the preceding storm and technical and melodic solos.
However, a special mention should be made for Marios, the man behind the mic, who proves one more time that he can do whatever he wants with his voice without much effort. His repertoire includes almost everything, from death growls of various kinds, even brutal death (notice how much he deepens his growl in “Radix Malorum”), to high-pitched blackish shrieks. He gives a fully expressive and dynamic performance in all the aggressive and atmospheric parts of the songs, while he really haunts us screaming desperately “Blood Aurora” as the album ends (a grandiose closure for a great album).
“Serpent God” was produced by Karma Violens themselves at their own studio (Symbolic Studio). Therefore, the band had absolute control regarding production matters, creating the exact sound they had in their mind, since the complexity of the album entailed strict requirements for higher quality. Production is as it should be; heavy when needed, more delicate at certain parts, but always absolutely clear.
Overall, “Serpent God” is a critical step for the band, revealing a musicianship that waited for the proper moment to arise into the light. Karma succeeded in creating a unique amalgam of death brutality and black melody, making their compositions “breath” freely, without sounding tiring or perplexed. The vibe of the album will surely draw the audience’s interest and many jawbones will be removed from their proper positions after the first listening sessions. Definitely, “Serpent God” is another diamond for the Greek scene.