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Calliophis : Cor Serpentis

A solid sophomore from Calliophis: what it may lack in originality, it makes up for in execution.

I remember, some years back, one of my German colleagues commenting on the woeful state of German Doom. He may well have had a point - at the time, there were plenty of good German Metal bands, of various types that sprang easily to mind, but almost none were even remotely doomy. That started to really change in the mid-late '00s, though, with a whole slew of bands taking it downtempo from the glory days of Thrash, Extreme and Power Metal, and making a pretty decent fist of it. Calliophis would fit into that category - formed in 2006, from the remnants of short-lived, demo-only Death Metal outfit Disobedience, and collecting together members of other primarily Death Metal acts along the way. Their reasonably well-received debut, 'Doomsday', came out in 2008: since then, they've done a lot of gigging, swapped their original guitarist for a lead/rhythm duo, and finally come up with this sophomore release.

Ironically, perhaps, given the similarity in names, 'Cor Serpentis' does remind me quite a lot of Hamburg's Ophis (Latin: 'serpent', while calliophis is a genus of coral snakes). Not for the first few minutes, necessarily, as opener 'The Cleansing' starts with an atmospherical, almost-Gothic instrumental passage before hammering into some huge riffs and growls - a contrast successfully revisited during the rest of the track's course, and found rather more sparsely throughout the rest of the album. It isn't that Calliophis particularly eschew melodic moments and bridging sections, but they base them around an extensive backbone of solid and massive old-school slow-Death-influenced sound which dominates much of each lengthy (9-minute-plus) track.

What seals the resemblance is actually the quality with which Calliophis mix that soundscape: the guitars are very much at the forefront, duelling with powerful rasping vocal semi-growls, with the percussion often forcefully emphasising the riffs, yet everything still retains separation and identity: a tricky but effective balance that Ophis got very right, starting with 2010's 'Withered Shades'. On the one hand heavy and dynamically punchy, on the other infused with a bleak harshness, 'Cor Serpentis' is very much in the same vein. Calliophis, however, are less keen to speed up the pace - guitar leads fulfilling the harder-edged directional changes instead - and their vocalist enunciates well enough to be more or less completely comprehensible (revealing an almost Candlemass style of storytelling lyricism).

All in all - despite the extensive comparison - it'd be very hard to actually fault anything here. The band clearly haven't wasted the past nine years: these are tight tracks, in every sense of the word: the compositions and arrangements are solid and compelling, the musicianship is excellent, and the production top-notch. There are a couple of reasonable flankers thrown in, with the highlight opening track, and the vocal shrieks and shouts of the closer 'Isolation' (with its veiled nods towards some Black Sabbath riffing) offering a slightly different take on things.

Sure, the chances are very much that you'll have heard similar offerings before, possibly aplenty, probably stretching all the way back to 'Serenades' (traces of which linger in 'Yuki Onna'), but that's okay. Calliophis have stepped up from their earlier work and, if not breaking completely original ground, have at least come up with something that could earn a place in your collection on quality of execution. That's backed up by enough variation to keep things interesting, and the feeling that this is a band which probably isn't done with evolving its full individual personality just yet. Well worth investigating.

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Reviewer's rating: 8/10


Tracklist :
1. The Cleansing
2. Yuki Onna
3. Edge Of Existence
4. Munk (Heart Of Stone)
5. Seven Suns
6. Isolation

Duration : Approx. 62 minutes

Visit the Calliophis bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-03-27 by Mike Liassides
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