Artist: Saint Deamon
Album Title: League Of The Serpent
Label: AFM Records
Date of Release: 21 April 2023
Here’s a band that I know almost nothing about, other than their name. Saint Deamon, as some of you will probably already know, are a Scandinavian melodic power metal band, comprised of four musicians of Swedish and Norwegian nationality. Bearing in mind my love of Scandinavian metal, and for metal that has melody, the previous sentence starts things off very nicely indeed. In fact, it was this combination that led me to pop my Saint Deamon cherry finally.
Formed back in 2006, the quartet released two albums before a decade-long hiatus, ending in 2019 with the release of their third album, ‘Ghost’. Currently, the band are comprised of three original members, namely bassist Magnus ‘Nobby’ Noberg, guitarist Toya Johansson, and vocalist Jan Thore Grefstad. They are joined by new drummer Alfred Fridhagen, who took up his position in the band in 2020.
‘League Of The Serpent’ is the fourth album under the Saint Deamon name, then, and I honestly have struggled with making my mind up about it. I mean, on one hand, it’s has a warmth and smoothness about it that means it isn’t a difficult or unenjoyable listen, backed up by perfectly decent musicianship and a definite energetic exuberance. There are some good songs to be heard, littered within the eleven tracks on the album, too.
For a start, there’s the opener, ‘At Break Of Dawn’ that creates a really positive account of itself. The riffs create groove, whilst Grefstad begins like a man on a mission, weaving his tales with great command and presence. It has a folk-like lilt that opens up into a seriously strong chorus, possibly my favourite on the entire album. Acoustic guitars deliver a melody that increases the folky atmosphere, and had it been shorter, would have been a nice break in the song. It is just a touch too long though, and the song suffers slightly as a result, despite a rousing final rendition of the chorus and stadium-sing-along finale.
The intro to the title track is properly fast and energetic, demonstrating the band’s power metal credentials. I really enjoy the guitar tones that Saint Deamon deliver too, lots of crunch and power. However, the chorus is a little underwhelming if I’m being truthful. Still, there’s a cool lead guitar from Johansson, which I enjoy.
‘The Final Fight’ is a quasi-ballad of sorts, with heaviness dialled back a little and blended with sugary melodies. It’d take a cynical man to decry the chorus too, as it’s undeniably catchy, with Grefstad taking centre stage, alongside a more obvious orchestral synth element as well.
It’s a good start, but there is something about ‘League Of The Serpent’ that means I haven’t fully warmed to it, or been beguiled by it in a way that I initially thought I might be. On the first listen, I heard enough potential that I was excited to listen again, to see how it would develop and, hopefully, grow. The opening trio are good, yes, that remains true. Unfortunately, every time I listen, the same thing happens, and that’s that I gradually lose interest the longer the album goes on.
In my opinion, with a couple of exceptions, the remainder of ‘League Of The Serpent’ doesn’t live up to the early promise. There’s nothing particularly bad about any of the remaining songs at all, far from it. This is a perfectly decent album. It’s just that too much of the album feels a little too safe, similar, and less inspired. ‘A Lie To Be Undone’ bucks the trend thanks to a really strong chorus and a beautiful section that allows a really gorgeous lead solo to emerge, full of emotion and musicality.
The rest, I find that I can take them or leave them. There’s not another chorus that pricks up my ears and demands me to listen, there’s nothing new or different to get me enthused. It is everything that you expect to hear from a melodic power metal band, only a little lacking in the memorability stakes.
I’m not really a fan of ‘Lost In Your Sin’, despite the chunky riffing and increased bombast, because there’s a strange Western tone to some of the guitars that I don’t really like, despite trying on several occasions. And ‘Gates Of Paradise’ tries to introduce a Middle Eastern vibe to the melodies, but the lyrics are clumsy and the stop-start nature of the track does it no favours, nor does a chorus that’s just ‘ok’ for my tastes.
I’m really disappointed as a result. What started out as something I could wax lyrical about has instead fallen short and is unlikely to yield further listens once this review is complete. Everything you want and expect of music like this is present and correct, so there will be a pleased audience out there. It has speed, it has heaviness, it has energy, it has good vocals. But what it lacks, in my opinion is knock-out melodies, and killer hook-laden choruses that stop me in my tracks. If ‘League Of The Serpent’ had these, then the fact that the album offers nothing new could have been easily sidestepped and marginalised as an issue. As it is, this is an album that’s smooth, powerful, and a perfectly pleasant, decent listen. But it doesn’t deliver the killer blow. As a result, it comes with only a cautious recommendation for aficionados of the scene only. For everyone else, there’s better out there on which to focus your attention.
The Score of Much Metal: 69%