Review: “Serpent & Spirit” by Urne

“I had a bit of a bad patch for a few months, I’m absolutely fine now, but I drew on those two months where I just wasn’t feeling great. I took that and wrote a story based about that. The actual track-listing is done like that film Memento, where it’s all in a different order. Maybe one day someone will listen to the lyrics and work out which order the story goes in. The album is called Serpent & Spirit. The spirit is the human experience, the serpent is the evil that tricks your mind. It’s about getting pulled apart and trying to find yourself within all of that. So it’s almost good and evil, and throughout the album it’s about a person getting pulled from the light to the dark. We really wanted it to sound real, there’s some records that sound really live and really raw, and some that sound polished and lifeless. We had ideas in our mind, but when we were in the studio, we finished the drums and realised we hadn’t even spoken about how we wanted everything to sound. But there’s a lot of sounds and vibes on the record – it would be too hard to go ‘I want it to sound like this one thing. I wanted to write a record that took me back to being 13, saving up my lunch money, going to CD warehouse in Wimbledon and going ‘What’s cool, what’s got the best artwork, what can I get?’ I wanted to recreate that feeling from when I was growing up and I was finding Priest, Pantera, Metallica, Megadeth. I wanted that feeling. That’s why the album had to be eight tracks – like those classics! I wanted that vibe of when you’re a kid and you hear one of those massive records for the first time.” ~ Joe Nally

Formed by ex-Hang The Bastard bassist Joe Nally and guitarist Angus Neyra after their former band called it quits, the pair already had a reputation for big, heavy riffs. Joined by drummer Richard Harris in 2018, they named their new band Urne, as in funeral urn, but using the German spelling for no real reason other than it looks cool and with debut EP “The Mountain Of Gold” produced by Sylosis and Architects guitarist Josh Middleton, they started their journey. That now continues with “Serpent & Spirit“, recorded with Chris Fielding (Conan, Electric Wizard, Primordial) at Foel Studios in deepest Wales during lockdown. It was then sent to acclaimed producer Jens Bogren (Sepultura, At The Gates, In Flames) who handled the mastering.

Eight cuts there maybe but with notable exception in “Envy The Dead” the average track here runs in between six and eight minutes, which should give you an idea for the kind of album this is; each cut runs deeper that the Ocean, soaked in atmosphere and ready to be burned to ashes. Opening with the title track, a tour de force that demonstrates what this band are about, loaded with big riffs with hints of Doom Metal and Sludge combined with a finely balanced polish that doesn’t take away the raw abrasions but helps lift it from the dirt. The result of that is a live feel; something which sounds like it was recorded perhaps not in one take but in a couple and then with minor tweaks. For example the impressive solo on “The Palace Of Devils & Wolves” is on a separate layer as the rhythm guitar work can be plainly heard underneath it; the track itself being an absolute ripper of angst laden vocals and dense riffs. Then comes “Memorial“, an instrumental which has touches of early Metallica and even a couple of bass solos from Nally which crack a smile during the blood and thunder riffs. Guitarist Angus Neyra shines with a couple of virtuoso solos without going over the top and as a piece of music it paints pictures in the mind like waves crashing upon a shore during a storm on a dark night. Little trade offs between the instruments and gradual tempo shifts making for a dark and yet beautiful soundscape, the chemistry between the musicians being evident from the very start, something which has no doubt helped them to bring their vision to reality.

As an album it has a strangely timeless feel, it could have been released anytime in the last forty years and still sounded as great as it does, that being said the modern production ensures the sound is crisp and clean as the band paint in light and shade. Joe Nally has a diverse vocal, able to capture Hard Rock Gods of the 1970’s while also changing it up with screamed uncleans with a raw and emotive quality to them, they are sublime on “Moon & Sky” and “Desolate Heart“, a pair of thinly veiled Heavy Traditional Metal numbers about pushing through the pain to find a new day. These are the songs of a troubled mind wearing his heart on his sleeve but not falling into woe is me territory, which has a lot to be said for it as instead of being the drudge it could be, there is a real swagger and sense of fun to the record. “Envy The Dead” being a fine example, a sub three minute saloon bar piece of whiskey guzzling debauchery that would be just as happy on the sound track of an episode of Sons of Anarchy as it would be anywhere else. While the first part of “Memorial” was a fretboard troubling affair, the second is an almost shoegazing piece of material with melancholic overtones and throat shredding vocals as Joe Nally pours his heart out with some abstract poetry that clearly has a much deeper meaning, painting the image of a man starring at the sun, awaiting self immolation. The flamenco guitar introduction of “A Tomb So Frail” is stunning before the band throw their bullets in the fire and run like hell with Thrash riffs and gang chants galore with a finale that would actually work really well as a live set opener. Make no mistake, this is a classic Metal record that has pretty much all that you could want [8/10]

Track listing

1. Serpent & Spirit
2. The Palace Of Devils & Wolves
3. Memorial (Instrumental)
4. Moon & Sky
5. Desolate Heart
6. Envy The Dead
7. Memorial (Sing Me To Rest)
8. A Tomb So Frail

Serpent & Spirit” by Urne is out 25th June via Spinefarm Records

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