SERPENTINE – Circle of Knives
The 3rd album from UK melodic rock band Serpentine comes at a time with member shifts, as vocalist Adam Payne and bassist Owen Crawford make their debut for the group. Knowing how strong 2011’s "Living & Dying in High Definition" was with previous singer Tony Mills (Shy, TNT), the band aim to keep their strong brand of smooth AOR-oriented melodic rock on high. Recording at Gary Hughes (Ten) Doghouse Studios, these 10 songs continue their quest to bring new AOR to not only the ardent followers of the genre, but also grab newcomers.
Everyone from FM and Magnum to Foreigner, Journey, and Giant comes up to my ears when I take in outstanding vocal harmonies, shimmering musical hooks in both the keyboard and guitar department, plus a rock solid rhythm section to hold this all together. The band can be quieter in sections of "Where Does Your Heart Beat Now" or the emotionally driven opener "Season of the Witch", while the vocal harmonies take over for "La Tragedienne" or the ballad "Bleed", as Adam’s natural register in well-suited for the genre: dynamic, giving adequate restraint in the softer sections while also lifting proceedings up when going a touch higher. Guitarist Christopher Gould and keyboardist Gareth David Noon fill up the sonic landscape seamlessly, comfortable taking the lead when called for but always thinking of the arrangement and needs for the individual song first. Highlights for me include the magical up-tempo "Bound by the Strings of Discord" and pulsating "Forever", but there’s not an average song in the bunch, and that’s a good thing for album continuity.
Much like Eclipse, Serpentine deserve credit for bringing the melodic rock genre to the latest generation, and not content to rest on the laurels or nostalgia of the 1980’s glory period. "Circle of Knives" is an impressive follow up, and should cement the band as one of the leaders beyond the UK melodic rock circuit to the international landscape.