No time needs to be spent using subversive and adjective precursors such as ‘crushing riffs’, ‘hard hitting drums’ or ‘haunting solo’s’ to describe the doom band Holy Serpent. At #10 on the global midyear doom charts alongside such titans as Elder, Dopethrone, Acid King and Monolord their legacy as one of the greatest doom bands of this decade is already cemented, yet the band have only recently released their first record. The story of Holy Serpent’s rise is astounding, and will surely become the stuff of legend as the band were signed to the cult doom label Riding Easy Records on the prospect of their demo tapes alone. This was prior to their first show in Melbourne.
Now in mid-July the self-titled debut LP is in high demand. In fact the Riding Easy servers crashed when the record launched due to such a ravenous demand for it online. All one hundred copies of the transparent die-hard edition evaporated and the remaining standard editions of the record’s first pressing are being sold in limited numbers – ten to be exact. This winter Holy Serpent embarked on their first Australian tour of the East Coast. Entitled the Shroom Doom tour. This is a chronicle of how I hosted the band in an unfurnished mansion for their four consecutive shows in Adelaide.
On a hectic four date stop in Adelaide, Jonty Czuchwiki plays host to Holy Serpent in an abandoned mansion. Let the doom band shenanigans ensue.
A friend of mine has given me the key to the eight bedroom, three bathroom house in which he used to live with my brother and all of our best mates. With the investment owned by his father the rent was dirt cheap and the living situation excessive. The house was due for partial demolition before being renovated and reconstructed in January of this year, but as anyone who has dealt with builders or contractors will know the major works never commenced on time and come July the home was still unused, providing an ever reliable after party location for all our hedonistic needs while being clinically speaking, abandoned.
I had become aware of Holy Serpent thanks to Rich Hansen of Twisted Echidna bookings, a reasonably well known booking agent responsible for most Friday and Saturday night shows at The Worlds End Hotel. A lover of riffs Richi, as he is known to friends, had previously brought such acts to Adelaide as Tequila Mockingbyrd, The Ugly Kings and Sun of Man. When he spoke of Holy Serpent and their signing to Riding Easy, a record label I had then never heard of, I was certainly intrigued.
Rich was stoked to have booked the fourth and fifth ever Holy Serpent shows. Safe to say I was utterly impressed by the band, who were sincerely worthy of their early investment. After the show Rich introduced me to Scott, Nick and Macca. It was instantly an easy going friendship, with mutual respect from me to their music abilities and them to my work writing for different publications.
It then turned out that Nick and I had crossed paths a year earlier whilst hanging out with members of Graveyard, Child, Red Coats and Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats at the infamous Cherry Bar on AC/DC lane. With front man Scott Penerthby and me keeping in touch after the debut Adelaide shows he certainly showed me a great degree of hospitality anytime I made my way over to Melbourne.
When Holy Serpent signed to Von Grimm for all Australian bookings a public call went out from the sludge booking company to anyone with expertise or contacts to contribute to the debut Australian tour of the East Coast for Holy Serpent. Coincidentally I had recently branched out from my writing activities to begin booking a club night at the underground venue Ancient World. With a few successful months of band nights and a small cult following in tow I jumped at the opportunity to supplement these local bashes with a headline show from an interstate band.
It’s Thursday July 9. I’m sitting in the high ceiling living room of the eight bedroom home. My friend had given me the key to the house the day before, prior to leaving for a ten day trip to Kuala Lumpur. His parting words in regards to the house were “Do what you want with it”. Quarters, the latest from King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard is spinning on gold vinyl. The off kilter 4/5 tempo of The River providing the perfect ambience.
There’s a rap on the door and Holy Serpent have arrived after a gruelling 11 hour drive. Macca (Bass) is first at the door, with Nick (guitar) close behind. It’s good to see them again. Scott is next in line, I’d caught up with him most recently before heading out on tour with The Ocean, and Keith (Drums) is close behind. He butts out his cigarette, I tell him he shouldn’t have bothered. Anything goes at the Wayville house, as it had colloquially become known among its denizens.
We sit down on some couches and catch up about the tour. According to the guys the Sydney dates and their hometown shows were the best so far. It’s a big topic of discussion that Sydney music-goers suck, but I’ve been hearing mostly good things lately. “What’s this playing?” asks Macca. I tell him that it’s the new King Gizzard record. Every member of Holy Serpent are fans of the band. We talk about some of the techniques such as the section in Infinite Rise where a cockadoodledoo transforms into a guitar solo.
Nick mentions that Stu Mackenzie is a genius, as he writes all of the songs himself. We crack open some beers and delve a little deeper into my record selection, vibing on Meshuggah’s Alive album for a good while, before moving onto Mastodon’s debut Call of the Mastodon. I was going to slip some Psycroptic in there, but Nick said he hates them.
It’s about time to load in for the gig so we call two cabs and get everything outside. When they arrive it’s a little bit of a Tetris manoeuvre to get all the gear in, but we manage alright. The venue, Ancient World, is situated down a creepy alley off of Hindley Street. The normies of Adelaide literally would not know that it exists. When we arrive my guitarist Yanni Apostolidis is already there. The manager of Ancient World, Brad Cameron, lets us in. Between Holy Serpent, Cobra, Crypt and Tombsealer we have the most gear I have ever seen loaded into Ancient World before. It was going to be a good night.
My band Cobra were opening. We were without our saxophone player which most definitely sucked, but as they say the show must go on. I was a little apprehensive about playing with much heavier bands, being more of a prog rock outfit, especially spying Scott and Nick making their way into the band room to watch. Though at their scrutiny we played well, and it turned out that Holy Serpent actually liked our sound, regardless of the differences.
While some might think CRYPT to be too large to occupy Ancient World they actually did so to an undeniable effect, inspiring awe amongst the audience with their involved performance. Their front man gave a spectacular show, spilling off the stage and onto the floor a crater formed around him, ascertaining his space without having to ask for it and diving into Southern style vocals reminiscent of early Pantera. Along with their penchant for great riffs the performance was perhaps even stronger than their recent jaunt supporting Boris.
Tombsealer kept things heavy with their bone rattling guitar tones and guttural vocals, dousing Ancient World in a foggy grave yard atmosphere. Their genre can be described as death-doom, with slow beat down riffs trading for faster sections and back again in excellent fashion. Tombsealer are definitely one of the stronger traditional metal bands on the Adelaide scene.
Holy Serpent hit the stage late, launching into songs from their self-titled album and completely capturing the room. Their riffs permeate the human body with the same surreal vibration as the roar of a dozen lions slowed down to the smooth glide of a slowly cresting wave. The cerebral excellency that Holy Serpent command in their guitar tones will have you thinking that this is the stoner rock band that you have always wanted to see.
Where the bass lines are no stranger in the mix the ever-bearing slam of the drum guides you indefinitely across a plane of wicked wonderment, mostly attuned to Scott Penberthy’s possessed vocals and Nick Donaghue’s casual yet haunting guitar solos that ride out over the ever-flowing river of riff building, a hypnotic cycle that inundates the listener with an eerie sense of stasis. Songs such as The Plague and Shroom Doom really fly up their as eligible candidates in arguments regarding ‘greatest compositions of all time’. There is something hauntingly uncanny about Holy Serpent’s prowess as a band.
For a Thursday night Ancient World was considerably packed out. I was definitely happy with the results. As the venue was closed up we remained inside behind closed doors for a few cheeky bevvies. I tried my hand at DJing for a bit, mixing tunes such as Public Service Broadcast and Bonobo to much amusement from Brad and Keith. After an hour or so of banter and drinking we head home with a six pack in tow.
Back at the house we chill for a little while, but it’s close to three am and there’s still another two days of shows coming up. I get a taxi back to my own place having agreed for Holy Serpent to meet up there at 4pm the next day for a BBQ.