There was a time when strutting doom of this persuasion played a much bigger role in my life. Hell, there was a time when strutting doom of this persuasion played a bigger role in a lot of people’s lives. But trends shift, comprehensive moods get darker, and over-population in the ring kills durability, resulting in a lot less stoner metal in the average metal fan’s life for 2016.
What’s refreshing about San Francisco’s Serpents of Dawn, however, is the fact that they navigate the stoner doom course without falling into some of the pitfalls that often end up fending off the more casual listener. Consider the tags on their bandcamp page to help illustrate the point:
“Tags: metal doom metal not stoners stoner metal”
It’s that midpoint that’s of particular interest. Whether the “not stoners” refers to the band or potential listeners, it basically affirms the fact that Beloved Unknown is well suited for those interested in cutting through the unnecessary frippery that often detracts from stoner doom’s pivotal bottom-heavy strut. There are no extended water-bong sound clips that drift into drawn out psychedelic trips here, just four tunes that very quickly get to the business of busting you in the chops with swaggering riffs.
“Yawning Black Abyss” kicks road dirt into your face right from the gate and settles into a glowing groove before it even reaches the 30-second mark, and the three tunes that chase it follow suit. “Eye for an Eye” prevails with a devastatingly fat strut, and “Locust Bringer” is a hot, greazy smoker that sets the stage perfectly for the closing “Out of the Mire,” which caps the EP on a notably brisk note.
Thirteen and a half minutes of dutifully riff-centric, ball-buster doom that’s reinforced by a booming growl and loads of fiery leads. Metal that’s fit for beer-bash or bar-brawl alike, as long as it’s quick. And who are we kidding, the stoners would likely dig Beloved Unknown as well, it’s just more of a…motivating slab of stoner doom. The sort of EP the ripped ’n’ red-eyed might throw on to inspire everyone off the couch and down to the corner store for a cup of joe and a king’s haul of Whatchamacallits.
Now, let’s get to know the band better…
5Q5A: Serpents of Dawn
Serpents of Dawn players:
Kyle (Acephalix, ex-Vastum) – guitar & backing vocals
Michael – bass
Patrick (Older Sun, Tomes) – drums
Steve – vocals
1. Doom and its applicable off-shoots enjoyed a hell of a run front-and-center and directly under the spotlight about ten years ago, but the overall enthusiasm for the genre seems to have ebbed in recent years, particularly with regard to the major publications/zines. Was this ever something you guys discussed before setting off with this project, or was a lack of quality in this style some sort of catalyst for the band’s inception?
Kyle: No. This band is purely for the love of music. We don’t follow trends or do anything for anyone else. We are way too self-involved for that. It’s like if pizza was more popular 10 years ago, it would mean nothing to me. I’d still eat the fuck out of pizza because it’s good.
Michael: What’s Doom? You mean like Dr. Doom from The Fantastic 4?
Patrick: The band never feels like it’s reaching for a certain sound, style, or genre of music. It feels very genuine, which is why I think people connect with it.
Steve: I just do what everyone tells me.
2. Serpents of Dawn has a really diverse group of individuals who have come in and out of the picture: members from Acephalix, Vastum, Gehenna (USA), Dispirit and now Older Sun and Tomes. How did you all come together under the Serpents banner? Is there a particular “point of reference” band (or bands) from the past that’s brought everyone together? A “If you love [BAND X] and can play, get in touch” sort of requisite?
Kyle: The love of big dumb riffs played loud as fuck. Total Neanderthal Rock.
Michael: There are MANY points of reference (so many you could connect the dots and find your spirit animal). It seems like the more we hangout and play music together, the more ways we find out we’re connected through bands we’ve been in, people we know, places we’ve lived, shit we like and how we feel about the music we’re playing now.
Patrick: We’ve already been kicked out of one rehearsal space in San Francisco. Every time we got together to practice, the owner of the building (which has built out rooms for bands to play loud music in) would knock on the door between songs and tell us we had to turn down. He was getting complaints from the next building over! Eventually, he not so subtly threatened us and told us we had to get out. That’s the kind of fucking band I want to be in!
Steve: I work with the first drummer of Serpents. He told me one day they were trying out vocalists and I was really interested in trying out. I didn’t know what Doom Metal even was before I joined this band.
3. As a person who is unashamed to admit a love of DeBarge, I don’t really believe in “guilty pleasure” bands, but is there anything that comes up during rehearsals or tours where one or more of you try to play a band/album that makes the rest of the guys wonder what the fuck’s wrong with you?
Kyle: Nicki Minaj
Michael: I’m unashamed to admit I love Miley Cyrus, but I don’t think anyone wonders what’s wrong with me.
Patrick: Morrissey. Also my love for RUSH is not popular amongst the rest of the band.
Steve: I really love the Beatles and Weird Al, but I would never subject my fellow band mates to that. I want them to want me in the band.
4. I spent fifteen of my favorite years in the Bay Area and decided to move on because of the unfortunate “tech weiner takeover” that’s all but ruined much of what made the area magnificent. How the hell do you guys handle trying to live and prosper there today without wanting (or needing) to saw off your own head? And if you do want to saw off your own head, has anyone invented an app for that? What sort of work do you guys do outside of the band that keeps you there?
Kyle: Lots of Meditation and playing music keeps me focused. I walk/train dogs and have been blessed with affordable rent so far….
Michael: Yeah, rent control. An app destroyed the industry I’d been working in for many years, so I’m somewhat of an angry troglodyte, but that situation also led me into working with dogs, which has been way more fun than the job that tech destroyed.
Patrick: The cockroaches that survive the techpocalypse that has beset our area will be even more resilient… Honestly, I don’t know how anyone survives here – I think it is mostly dumb luck. We all work full time jobs to support our music habit.
Steve: Like Kyle, I meditate and pray a lot. I work with people with developmental disabilities, and specifically in housing, so I’m a part of a bigger mission to help people with DD keep and/or find new housing.
5. Metal and vans have always worked well side-by-side, not only because they’re great for touring and hauling equipment around, but also due to the fact that vans fucking rule. If the band could have a Serpents of Dawn van with a bomb-ass airbrush design on the side that’s NOT the cover of the latest EP, what would it be and why?
Kyle: Frank Frazetta’s “Death Dealer”.
Michael: Like a dream van-art scenario? I’d have Derek Riggs, the guy who created Eddie and did all the early Iron Maiden album covers, do some original shit for me. I met him at a kind of horror movie/heavy metal convention a few years ago and I totally freaked out. There were all these rock stars and horror movie actors walking around, which was cool, but I was like: “DEREK RIGGS HOLY SHIT!!! You’re awesome, will you sign this? Take a picture with me?…” Total fanboy shit, because I’d had his art all over my room since I was 12 or 13.
Patrick: You know the van scene in Cheech & Chong’s Next Movie where they convert their work van into a lowrider with an airbrushed Aztec warrior in full headdress carrying a woman in front of a dramatic snow capped mountain scene? Yeah, that.
Steve: Solid black.
Beloved Unknown is available now as a digital download or cassette through the Serpents of Dawn bandcamp page. I suggest throwing them your prompt attention if big dumb riffs that kick you right in the chiclets have been missing in your life lately.
And thanks to the band for taking the time to answer some questions.