Snakefeast- The Pythoness

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Grimoire Records has been responsible for exposing quite a bit of talent from Maryland and the surrounding area to a larger audience, and they’ve established a diverse roster that encompasses everything from crust punk to post rock. Snakefeast, which features label co-owner Phil Doccolo on vocals, may just be the most experimental act Grimoire has to offer and they make a strong impression on debut full length The Pythoness. Coming in somewhere between sludge, black metal, jazz fusion, and prog, this is the type of album that’s going to be an acquired taste but for the more adventurous listener it’s worth diving into and fully experiencing.

Right from the start it’s clear that Snakefeast is going for a fairly different sound from everything else out there, as the instrumentals consist of bass, cello, saxophone, and drums. These different instruments come together to create constantly changing soundscapes that take the listener on an adventure, and despite some common elements each of the nine tracks feels fairly different. There are some moments where the band cranks up the intensity and heads into metal territory, but the majority of The Pythoness reminded me of jazz fusion and prog with some additional metal styling. It’s the type of record that demands multiple listens, as each time through allows you to explore different nuances of the songs and discover some elements that you might not have noticed before. Admittedly this does make the material take a bit to fully absorb and take in, but if you’re willing to give Snakefeast the time they deserve you’ll be sucked in by the constantly changing melodies, sudden heavy bursts of sludge and doom, and some downright funky bass lines. Within both the jazz fusion/prog and metal spectrums, I can’t think of anything that sounds exactly like what is happening on The Pythoness, and that made it all the more compelling to dive right into.

The interplay between the cello, bass, and saxophone may lean towards the melodic side, but the vocals fall squarely into metal territory. Phil has a very raspy, full scream that at times reminds me of a black metal shriek and during other moments reminds me of some of the most extreme sludge vocalists out there. His pitch twists and turns along with the music, and because the instrumentals do mellow out so frequently it makes the intense vocals stand out that much more. What stood out to me wasn’t necessarily the abrasiveness of the performance (though it is noteworthy), but how much Phil was able to make the pitch change and really make it just as versatile and unpredictable as what the rest of the band is doing. This is something that isn’t always common in the metal world, even when the material ends up on the progressive/experimental side, so this made Snakefeast’s debut stand out that much more.

I’ve heard quite a few metal acts over the years that have incorporated some jazz and progressive elements, but Snakefeast’s particular combination of instruments and extremely harsh vocals mixed with mellower groove driven soundscapes helps them to carve out a niche of their own. As previously mentioned, it’s one of those albums that might take repeated listens to fully click and because of this it might not be for everyone, but if you have an interest in both metal and jazz/prog The Pythoness is a worthy listen. I’ll be watching this group to see where they head in the future, as they’re able to create material that’s challenging but not completely inaccessible, and it does seem like there remains room to further blur the lines between the jazzier elements and the abrasive metal edge.

Leave a Reply