The Single Life: Iron Serpent/Ahriman

Is there anything more exciting than being a new band, with a single on Spotify and the complete and utter conviction that you’ve done something great?

And then you gotta figure out how to get an audience over to said masterpiece. Which sometimes means reaching out to someone like me and…….oh, that can go south, quickly. Catch a reviewer in a bad mood, distracted or trying to catch up on a dozen things and the results can be less than expected.

That is exactly the mindset I was when when Reaper, the drummer for Iron Serpent, reached out to me. But, knowing what I know about moods, stress and mental state, I dove in anyway. On my iPhone. While ruminating on the above factors.

Now, even if I was skipping around like a 4-year-old and OD-ing on endorphins from eating too much chocolate, harsh vocals are a tough sell for me. 95% of the stuff I reject without a second thought has harsh vocals. It’s just tough for me to get past.

I was thinking about this while taking a quick shower. I’d just given Ahriman a listen, and I needed a quick shower before I sent back a response. That’s when I realized four things:

  1. The guitar work is stellar, with a wicked combination of tone and technique that’s hard to come by.
  2. I could not get the chanted chorus, “Come to me, Ahriman,” out of my head.
  3. I reacted the same way to YOB, Scorched Oak, and even Opeth. All three are among my favorite bands/albums/songs.
  4. And finally, who the fuck is Ahriman? I really want to know…

So, I gave it another shot, this time with my favorite headphones. As expected, I got it. From the intro of running water, to the same sound in the outro, this is some primo stuff.

The guitar work is impressive. Death Slinger, as he is named, brings an old-school vibe, complete with vibrato, that doesn’t sound dated or forced. He sets the atmosphere nicely with a slow, doomy dirge that leads into the main riff. Nicely done, sir.

Then there’s his vocals. If you’re gonna do harsh, you might as well lean into them, and lean into them he does. Forward in the mix enough to actually hear them, I have to admit they add to the Blackened Doom sound Iron Serpent is looking for. I just wish I had a lyric sheet so I could learn more about this Ahriman dude. He sounds vicious.

The drums are nicely balanced, and Reaper follows the rhythm of the riff more than anything else. Restrained and complimentary drummers are a blessing to any band, but one this musical is priceless. Three piece bands can tend to over-work, play all over the place, especially the drums. Not this band, and not this drummer. I get the impression the drum arrangements were given as much attention as everything else, including some objective editing.

But what pushed this song over the top for me was the bass work of Mischief. Once I got the right headphones on, her playing hit me immediately. This isn’t scooped-mids, Nu-Metal bass. This is full-throttle, in your guts BASS. Without it, this seems just average. But her playing, and the quality of the mix, ties the whole thing together more than I usually experience. This was made for dual-subs pressurizing a room, or at the very least decent headphones, to fully appreciate. Every element comes into focus, including the blistering leads that Death Slinger unleashes, and even the vocals are enhanced.

As usual, a good single raised more questions than answers. Can their brand of Blackened Doom fill an EP or a full-release? What other tricks do they have up their sleeves? And, more importantly, what’s up with this Ahriman dude?

The only thing I know for certain is this: I’ll be checking out the EP as soon as its released.

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