Serpent Venom slithers across the pond from the United Kingdom, containing former members of doom bands that are unknown to the casual fan. That is, unless you’re familiar with Gaz Ricketts of Sloth, who handles vocal duties. I stumbled upon Carnal Altar by chance and just had to add my two cents. The hypnotic album art is a throwback to the early 1970s and would be at home on a LP or Stereo 8 cover (look it up, young ‘uns!).
The “Carnal Altar” welcomes all those who dare enter with a signature that is dripping with a sound that takes the sinister approach of fellow countrymen Electric Wizard and Black Sabbath and takes it to the extreme, mixing in a touch of Saint Vitus. It is the soundtrack to a crude human sacrifice, complete with sexual overtones. “Blood of the Serpents” sends enough chills up and down my spine to cause hypothermia.
Since I always struggle with lyrics, I decided to look for a poem to describe “Four Walls of Solitude“, which sounds conspiciously like the actual lyrics for this track. I will let you decide. Here’s an excerpt: “Surrounded by these four walls / Dying alone without any calls / You don’t understand that’s just so rude / So I’ll sit, here in solitude”. [Yeah, I'd say that's fairly blatant—ed.] The track itself is a definite homage to the Lord of Doom himself, Tony Iommi, especially in the second half. “Conjuration” offers up much of the same, as it treads this familiar territory.
“Devilshire” is more in the vein of early Electric Wizard, with plenty of thick, plodding riffs while “The Outside” closes things off on a more sinister note. I do feel that Carnal Altar falls flat within the last three tracks. While they are entertaining, they show the unwillingness of Serpent Venom to expand upon the sound of the title track and “Four Walls of Solitude”. Regardless, this is still a very strong doom debut and it would be a shame if it were overlooked by releases from better-known bands.
Try: 1, 2, 3, 6
01. Carnal Altar
02. Blood of the Serpents
03. Four Walls of Solitude
05. Under The Compass
07. The Outsider