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Pythia - The Serpent’s Curse
CD Reviews
Written by Doctor T.   
Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Pythia CD Review
The Serpent's Curse
Pythia - The Serpent's Curse

 

CD Info
2012
Golden Axe/Universal
10 Tracks
English Lyrics

 

I was planning to do a review of Pythia’s debut release, Beneath The Veiled Embrace, a 2009 release, and a good one, but lead vocalist Emily Alice Ovenden suggested waiting for the present release instead. Well, the wait is about over, The Serpent’s Curse is about to be released. And it was worth the wait. The principle components of the band remain in place, with a single change at the base, a change that was not available for the recording of this production. However, the focus of the band is probably vocalist Emily Alice and she’s nothing if not an interesting lass. Raised in a Gothic castle in Cornwall, Emily Alice has been an author since an early age, a published author. She is the daughter of well-known English artists. However, you could argue that music is as big a part of her life as any of the other arts. Besides her participation in Pythia, Emily Alice is a member of Mediaeval Baebes and Celtic Legend and is clearly a babe in both. You’ll be pleased to know that a review of a Mediaeval Baebes release should appear on this site before too long, as well as a full interview with the English lass herself, as soon as Robin Stryker gets settled in her new digs at the far reaches of the galaxy, otherwise known as Washington State. Just one babe talking to another babe. Should be interesting.

The Serpent’s Curse is a little different than the previous release, but not a significant change. Little harder direction, maybe, little more emphasis on the guitars and drums, possibly to differentiate it from that Baebes material although both are more than OK with me. There’s obviously a classical direction to much of the music, no matter how heavy the metal. Keyboardist Richard Holland is a classical pianist and his influence is apparent in much of the material. And the lyrics reflect the influence of a first rate English writer, both in content and written structure. Emily Alice is clearly conversant in the English language, something I can never see enough of. The music, we are told, is more of a group effort, but the lyrics are Emily Alice.

The Serpent’s Curse is an interesting mixture of sounds. You get that solid metal, but you get a range of metal with various overall structures ranging from the beautiful to the pounding. The same can be said for the vocals; Emily Alice seems to have the ability to alter her delivery to meet the dictates of the song, and, with the variance in this production, that makes it all the more entertaining. You can say the same for other components. Drummer Marc Dyos goes from delivering a solid background beat to cranking it up to Devastation levels in the blink of an eye. Almost reminds me of that new drummer with Blackthorn, although probably not as good looking. And that subtle, or in your face, change of pace takes place with some degree of regularity both with respect to individual tracks and, sometimes, within individual tracks.

There’s an interesting first track for the CD. It’s actually not typical of the music, in general. But it is a highlight of the CD. A Cry of Our Nation begins with a military drum line over strummed guitar chords. Emily Alice begins the vocal line with a high octave delivery as the drums accelerate to double time. But her delivery adjusts as the track moves in different directions. And this movement between styles continues throughout the track, we get more variance in structure here than the average asylum sees during group psychotherapy time, but with far more interesting results. You know you’re in for an interesting hour.

There are a number of hard metal sounding tracks. Betray My Heart is more representative of the general flow of the music, in a number of respects. You get the solid guitars over the more standardized drums. The vocals demonstrate the more typical Emily Alice direction, and it’s a good one. Other sounds are relatively similar, at least musically. This live performance demonstrates what you get for your money in a live setting. Again, the strong metal direction that typifies this release, with the strong vocal flowing over that metal.

It’s probably worthwhile to talk about some of the lyrics here, being as how they’re developed and performed by a serious writer. Topics addressed seem to vary from one track to the next. Many seem to focus on the more traditional interpersonal direction, and one could deduce that Emily Alice has had some ups and downs there, as have we all. Probably not what I would classify as dark Gothic, although there are some tracks that approach that direction, if in an indirect manner. Dark Star was one of those that caught my eye, both musically and lyrically. You realize early on that our lyricist has that singular ability to utilize the English language in such a manner as to maximize the message. Musically, this is another one of those that provides multiple approaches, from the softer to the harder, but always with that killer voice Emily Alice seems to yield as a weapon on the battlefield of metal. But, here the message provides a glimpse into deeper thinking, a reflection beyond the causal:

Once there was a girl who lived a thousand centuries
Never found a friend to call her own
So she turned to ice / a mountain of indignity
Couldn’t bare the awful years alone

Never heard loneliness more beautifully put.

Another point to make regarding the CD in general, while I’m still lucid, would be the artwork. Now, as I mentioned, Emily Alice comes from an "artistic" family and she seems to have an eye for things that look good. And, the artwork on this release certainly qualifies in that regard. It’s produced by renowned fantasy artist Brian Froud and it’s worth taking a look at. And there is that "fantasy" oriented theme throughout. That goes to the costumes the performers often utilize to accentuate that direction. And Emily Alice does look good in those costumes. But the "look and feel" also carries over to the music on some tracks. Long Live the King takes this tack; we even get some sounds that take us in a fantasy direction, before the metal kicks in. This one has a bit of an "epic" quality to it, nice sound track for the next Underworld flick. Of course, the lyrics can be taken several ways, as is the case with good literature in general. Emily Alice sings:

I heard the dragon had his way
And I shed a tear for us
For the years he had to pay
For the strength and love and trust

Well, that one leaves some room for interpretation, as do many more throughout the work. Other works make a more focused statement relative to those interpersonal relations topics I mentioned earlier. My Perfect Enemy uses a more direct musical vehicle to cleverly comment on the warfare that is relationships. And you get some killer guitars to put an emphasis on the battles we’ve all been through, the ones I generally lost. Heartless looks at the battle royal from the perspective of the winner, and does so with one of the heavier tracks; you get that killer drum line here, pounding like a never ending thunderstorm. Guitars scream and Emily Alice goes lovely while explaining why women generally win, all at high octave.

The final track, Our Forgotten Land, leaves us with another epic sounding production. Here Emily Alice comes closest to the pure opera sound, her most beautiful work on the CD. We come close to the Gothic here, again utilizing the fantasy theme to deliver the message. It’s the signoff for the work, and it may be the highlight. Great production, great thundering symphonics and the outstanding lyrical work that may be the signature component of this music:

This is the last word we will say
This is open war
And it’s time to pay
Now you know, my lord
You will face the sword

Guess you gotta grow up in a castle for some things to work. And this one sure works.

9.5 / 10

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