The Malign Covenant by Verminous SerpentRelease date: March 17, 2023
Label: Amor Fati Productions
A quick look at the protagonists coming together for this new project – A.A. Nemtheanga of Primordial fame, Slidhr’s Joseph Deegan, and Matt Bree from Malthusian – is enough to whet the appetite for what Verminous Serpent might have to offer. The accompanying press release promises “an album that brims with ancient black metal energies”, which by all accounts is a pretty succinct summation of what The Malign Covenant unleashes.
But do they do it well? The simple answer is yes, very. In treading an extremely tight knife-edge, balancing raw black metal vibes whilst still producing a dense cacophony that is verging on the bestial, Verminous Serpent forge an aural landscape that feels malicious and deeply unsettling as it wraps its icy tendrils around your ears. Not so polished as to immediately alienate those who prefer the harsh minimal values of the genre’s creative explosion, neither does it eschew the benefits offered by a more complete exploration of the sonic spectrum.
It might be well-trodden ground, yet The Malign Covenant does a magnificent job of trying to get inside the horrors of the witch trials that swept across Europe in centuries past, imparting the sheer brutality via their music. The emphasis here is very much on atmosphere; everything, from the marching funereal riffs and screaming feedback to Nemtheanga’s visceral vocal lines, is designed to weave a blanket of bleakness that frightens as much as it delights.
This is meant to be an uncomfortable experience: in doing so, Verminous Serpent have proven that you do not need to rely on lo-fi screeches and wails to ensure a truly terrifying black metal record. The discordant, chaotic descent into madness as the final track ‘Death’s Head Mantra’ brings the curtain down leaves the listener exhausted, scared, but most of all enthralled by the sheer malevolence captured on The Malign Covenant.