Renewal and Reinvigoration

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What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger; words that seem most appropriate in the context of the demise of Belgium doom/sludge merchants Thee Plague of Gentlemen after the arrest of vocalist Steve Wackenier in 2006. In trying times like those, the best option was to disband Thee Plague of Gentlemen and forge ahead with a new venture that expanded upon the sound of its predecessor. Bassist Steven Van Cauwenbergh, drummer Frederik “Cozy” Cosemans and guitarist Frederic Caure wasted little time in forming Serpentcult and releasing the Trident Nor Fire EP on I Hate in 2007, this time with a female vocalist by the name of Michelle Nocone who worked wonders for a band looking to utilize a traditional vocalist and incorporate a more melodic approach to go with the crushing heaviness. It all came together on the band’s full-length debut, Weight of Light, on Rise Above Records. The approach is unequivocally low-end doom in those leaden riffs and ironclad rhythms, yet the tempos are varied and Nocone not only provides brilliant contrast, but also makes the already ably written tracks more fluid, colorful, and of course tuneful. Time may heal all wounds, but finding one’ s creative groove in the aftermath of tragedy closes them even quicker.

When Thee Plague of Gentlemen imploded you obviously wanted to continue down this doomy path in some capacity. Talk about the beginning stages of Serpentcult.

Frederic Caure: We were all good friends together in the band. There was no use in stopping to make music because the previous band split up. I think it was only a few days after we split up that we called each other again and starting talking about starting a new band. In the beginning, there was some doubt to do it because it was quite tricky with all the things that had happened. But four weeks later we were in the rehearsal room and three months after that we had the EP ready [laughs].

Serpentcult is not simply Thee Plague of Gentlemen: Part II, the assumption then being that you had ideas for the sound you wanted to create in Serpentcult that set yourselves part from its predecessor.

FC: Absolutely! With Thee Plague of Gentlemen we were more bound to the genre we played in. We were a bit trapped in this categorization where we couldn’t get much more out of it. When we started a new band it allowed us to spread our wings and do more than we were used to doing. In the first place, it was taking a female singer into the band. We didn’t intend to have a female singer in the band, but it helped a lot on a vocal level; we could do much more melodic things. And also musically we were able to incorporate much more different kinds of music.

With Serpentcult you mix up the tempos, you make the arrangement more interesting and, like you said, you’ve got the melodic factor. It is still heavy and crushing to be sure.

FC: Of course. The basis of the music is doom metal in the riffs, but that’s more to do with old Black Sabbath and 70’s hard rock. That’s where the link with doom metal is. But also the older influences, mainly Celtic Frost and a lot of other 80’s heavy metal bands like Candlemass and stuff like that. I’m not afraid to say that we have some stoner rock influences as well. All this together blends into what we make with Serpentcult today.

The Celtic Frost reference has come up periodically in discussions about the band, but it is not necessarily an obvious part of your sound, at least to me. It is less of an overt influence.

FC: Maybe. If I think of a good riff and I think of what music should sound like, I always refer to the stuff that Celtic Frost did. It’s not really a straight influence; we’re not trying to be a copy of Hellhammer or Celtic Frost. The main idea is “is it heavy; is it a catchy riff?”

The album title Weight of Light is an interesting one. My gut tells me that the meaning is a deep one.

FC: That’s correct. It’s so complicated that I have a hard time explaining to everyone who asks. It’s some kind of society thing. It’s about going away from the normal society and going your own way in the world without having all this materialistic stuff all around you, all these traditional ways of thinking that people have. It’s just going the way that you want to go in life and having your inner enlightenment. This road to inner enlightenment is very individual and very much your own thing. It’s not easy because you have to go against the stream all the time. That’s what we call the weight of light because it’s a heavy burden to go your own way and to live your own way of life.

The guitar tone on the album is exquisite. It’s raw; it’s heavy. Is there something in particular that you do to get that kind of sound?

FC: I try not to get caught up in all these modern things, pedals and harmonizers, and whatever. I just use a regular tube amp and plug my guitar in, and that’s about it [laughs]. It’s back to basics. Going back to basics is one of the main ideas in the band, not only in the back line and gear, but also in writing music. It has to be very basic and that’s the best way it works for us.

The bass guitar in this band is so important, even more so than what is heard in traditional doom bands. The bass is many ways is the engine that drives the music.

FC: It does, yes. Steven is a great bass player and it would be a shame not to expose that on the album. Secondly, he brings out so much in the music. He’s much more than just a bass player that plays the same things as the guitarist. It was intended to have the bass guitar so in front of the mix. We’re all big Iron Maiden fans on top of that. So putting the Steve Harris and Cliff Burton thing on top of it was just perfect.

And I think what Michelle really brings to the band is the contrast. You tend to pay more attention to the vocals on an album like this, but also to the sheer heaviness of the music.

FC: I agree with you and I think many other people do too. But it’s also an argument for people to say that they do not like it. People will use the same argument about the contrast, that it loses the heaviness. But we think it’s perfect. We’ve all been big fans of singers like Bruce Dickinson and Messiah Marcolin. When we were looking for a singer, we were looking for a real good, traditional melodic singer and we knew it would be hard to find a good singer, certainly in Belgium. Many people that sing like this were not eager to sing in a band like ours. But we had all the luck in the world that she wanted to sing with us.

Do you feel as though you’ve made a work that stands apart from even Trident Nor Fire. I know you re-recorded “Screams from the Deep” and “Red Dawn,” which appeared on the EP.

FC: Yes, we re-recorded those because we felt that they fit very well within the context of Weight of Light. But I think this album is very different; it’s a very dark and sober album, also in sound and song structures. Whereas Trident No Fire is a very happy sounding album.


FC: [Laughs] Many people don’t agree with me. It’s definitely a more happy-sounding EP than Weight of Light. The way of writing songs was different then; we were just new as a band. Also it was the first recording with Michelle. I think the way of writing now is more coherent than Trident Nor Fire.

You’ve made a lot of references to not just doom, but also traditional heavy metal. It seems you never lose sight of the fact that this is heavy metal at the end of the day, regardless of your sub-genre categorization.

FC: That’s true! And how we try to categorize ourselves is heavy metal in the truest sense of it. It ‘s not only doom. But if we just say heavy metal, many people think of bands like Manowar and that’ s it. But if you go back to the right sense of the word it’s heavy metal; nothing more, nothing less.


  1. Commented by: Shawn Pelata

    Cool! Love the new album from these guys…good interview.

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