Serpens is a Russian black metal band which has been around for over a decade, but produced only a few demos up to this point. Nox Irae is their first stab at a proper album, and it has a bright, vibrant quality you don't often hear from underground black metal.
The guitars are extremely thick and pungent for this style. Though the basic riffs follow the conventions of genre closely, they exhibit a sensitivity for sad melodies that weave within and above the driving chords. The material ranges from the faster, oft blasting of "Initsiatsiya Smertyu" and "Namestnik Vselennoy" to the more somber and atmospheric "Sumerki", which is one of my favorite pieces on the album. But all the songs are very well paced, and the album flows from beginning to finish, maintaining a constant level of immersion.
Nox Irae sounds titillating, with its brazen, charging axework and the cautious, powerful snarls of Mihail. The bass here is playful, the sparse use of synths effective. Serpens may have opted out of the raw as fuck style many of their peers eschew, but their contribution loses very little menace as a result. Truly, a lot of the riffs here feel familiar, but when performed with such punch, it's hard not to follow them as they meander towards a bleak resolution. Occasionally, the band will conjure something above and beyond the mere call of their demonic devotions, and as a result, Nox Irae reeks of potential.
Highlights: Nox Irae, Sumerki, Na Koster
Verdict: Win [7/10]