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Serpentine - 'Circle Of Knives' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/ba/ef/6f/Serpentine-Circle-Of-Knives-85-1441311268.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 03, 2015    
 
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Nothing new perhaps but still enjoyable – and worth checking out if you're into Melodic Hard Rock.

Every band talks – or perhaps the better word would be complains – about the "sophomore slump" syndrome. For some, however, it is the one that comes next that turns out to be the much bigger challenge. The third effort that has to be up to standards of the previous two and a step forward towards their own style and maturity... both at the same time! One can only imagine it must be even harder to rise to such a challenge with line-up changes happening simultaneously. However, the U.K. act Serpentine have somehow managed to follow 2011's 'Living & Dying In High Definition' with a decent third album which was no doubt helped by the input of Gary Hughes (Ten) who produced and co-wrote all the material. On this occasion it is neither Tony Mills nor his heir Matt Black that sings on 'Circle Of Knives' but Adam Payne, Serpentine's new lead singer who recently replaced Black.

It may be a different voice that fills the air and a different face behind the mic, but the band's style hasn't evolved much since the days of 'A Touch Of Heaven' or '...Definition'; it's still keyboard-laden, guitar-driven AOR/Melodic Rock embroidered with bombastic choruses. The only and obvious difference that is evident is that of Payne's relatively low-key voice. He's a singer perhaps not too suitable for songs in the vein of the band's older repertoire where he's required to hit all the Mills-esque trademark high notes, hence you won't find such here.

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Other than that, it's just a solid AOR record – full of dynamic Rockers ('Season Of The Witch', 'La Tragedienne', 'Bound By The Strings Of Discord') and melodic mid-tempo offerings ('Forever', 'Where Does Your Heart Beat Now', 'Such A Long Way Down', 'Suicide Days'). As far as those infectious hooks that undoubtedly are the genre's trademark – 'The Hardest Fall' is perhaps the album's highlight in this respect, the title track being nevertheless very close. As for a heart-rending power ballad, another "must" in Melodic Rock, there is 'Bleed' with its rich lead guitar work and melancholic tone.

Apart from the line-up change, 'Circle Of Knives' is, in effect, a continuation to the previous two albums more than the album to mark any evolution in Serpentine's sound. But then one could ask "is any evolution necessary"? What the band offers for the third time is simply a handful of well-crafted AOR/Melodic Rock songs that are still embedded in the same aesthetics that are so eagerly utilized by the likes of Ten, FM, Casanova and of course Stage Dolls twenty five or more years earlier. It's nothing new perhaps but still enjoyable – and worth checking out if you're into Melodic Hard Rock.

Alexandra Mrozowska

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