Seraphim System - Mutant Menagerie & Grimoire
This review was commissioned. However, it bears no weight on the score or decision. All reviews are written from an unbiased standpoint.
The first song ‘The High Priestess’ on Seraphim System’s latest album “Mutant Menagerie & Grimoire” is just plain ugly. Not in a good way, either. I’m all about drums and percussion; absolutely love them and usually that’s my favorite part of any heavy song. Something about hardened, pulse pounding drums get me going. The rapid delivery on this track doesn’t work in the slightest, and sounds as if a toddler was given access to a drum machine and pressed all the buttons at once. The vocals don’t really help much, either, the distorted shouting over the muddy beat further sews chaos. There’s no real reward to this song and it doesn’t really get better as the song moves forward.
Thankfully, the album does get better as it moves on. A sample heavy introduction starts off ‘I Will Guide Thy Hand’ before we’re set to a stomping, club beat. Part industrial techno, part cinematic pleasure; a song that could’ve been used in a DOOM video game should they have chosen to use an electronic score, or perhaps a track that would fit well in any one of the fight scenes straight out of John Wick. Enough variation, pauses, and breaks to keep the beat interesting and fresh.
Next up is the title track ‘Mutant Menagerie’ which is a pretty dope song; a three-minute and ten-second foray into drum’n’bass music. Normally I’m not a huge fan of drum’n’bass as I feel the genre as peaked and most people who commit to it are just repeating history. Seraphim System is able to take drum’n’bass and morph it more into a powerhouse of a single. There’s even room for some cleaner shouting that occurs around the one-minute and fifty-second mark. This hits much harder than any distorted vox that Seraphim System utilizes. I think he should ditch any digitized vox and just go straight for his regular shouting; it’s menacing and brutal and fits much better with the crisp production.
Gotta admit that Seraphim System was shown up by Dark Machine Nation on ‘Contrition’. Been a fan of that act since I discovered their album “Noise & Pestilence”. This track features music that is expected from both Seraphim System and DMN; heavy bass beats and stomping industrial rhythms. But Dark Machine Nation has a mastery of gritty and angry vocals that demands respect and attention. If we could get more collabs from these two, I’d be a much happier man.
The fifth track features the legendary GRENDEL. ‘You Do Not Recognize the Bodies in the Water’ starts with some lo-fi drum’n’bass before breaking out into further mesmerizing rhythmic beats. Some of the vox in this mix are too quiet, especially around the two-minute and nine-second mark. I’m not sure why this was chosen as Seraphim System completely nailed them earlier in the song and then chose to fade them into obscurity. Nonetheless, the track gets into some nifty electronic work towards the end which I’m assuming is attributed to GRENDEL – as it sounds like something GRENDEL would do. But I’m not quite sure if it really fit within the song’s theme. You’re given this grand, gritty industrial stomper and the end of it has squeaky synths out of a SNES video game – it just doesn’t work for me.
‘Guns Don’t Make Goth Music, I Do’ and ‘Blood Red Sky’ are two significant dancefloor fillers that get the job done. They’re fast, fun, frenetic, etc. To put it short, this’ll get you moving your feet.
I feel as if ‘I Am Weary, Let Me Rest’ is what ‘The High Priestess’ should have been more like. Industrial machinations run rampant in this song and there’s even room for some of that rapid, percussive work - such as around the one-minute and fifty-second mark. But its used as an element and not as the entirety of the song. The follow-up song ‘Quid Est Veritas?’ brings out the most metal influence we’ve seen on the album thus far. And it also brings back some cleaner vox which I was grateful for.
‘Black Aura’ features Ration Strain, or Vanessa Harris who is the live drummer of W.A.S.T.E.. And, whaddya know, a guy who loves drums falls in love with a song that has a ton of drum work. Tribal work, lot of rhythm and deviations from the norm, and a constantly evolving beat. Different from much of Seraphim System’s other works on the album, but a glorious one nonetheless. The final track ‘Surfacing’ is like an amalgamation of all of Seraphim System’s influences stuffed into one album. Rapid lyrical delivery, wicked thrashy instrumentals, noisy electronics, and even a bit of punk influence. Aggressive and harsh.
Seraphim System does a phenomenal job on “Mutant Menagerie & Grimoire” for the most part; many of his songs are gorgeous through its aggression, and most of the collaborations pan out well. The highlight of the album for me is ‘Contrition’, and I’d love to see Dark Machine Nation and Seraphim System collaborate more (side project, anyone?). The flaws that are presented here are few, but they are still visible. I tried and tried and tried to enjoy ‘The High Priestess’ but each passing listen just made me understand more and more as to why I didn’t enjoy it. The GRENDEL collab wasn’t the best, and I’m confused as to why Seraphim System embraces his digitally distorted vocal effects when his natural shout / scream is so much more effective. Nonetheless, more positive than good, and this is something that I’ll be taking along on playlists to come.Jun 24 2023
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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