Artist: The Sign of Four
Album: Serpentine – EP
Slithering, twisting, gyrating–it climbs up your spine, working its way along your vertebral column and winding its way around your neck. With every frantic grasp for breath it coils tighter, constricting your windpipe and laughing at your desperate grip on life, slipping with each passing second. It is Serpentine, the breakout effort by the Australian onslaught, The Sign of Four. These Newcastle neck snappers are the latest and greatest heavy offering from down under, combining cutthroat grooves, crushing breakdowns and cunningly aggressive lyrics, The Sign of Four are as sinister as a serpent and as lethal as a noose–as their debut EP has no issue winding inside the listener’s head and corroding their sanity.
Instrumentally, The Sign of Four find themselves at the instrumental crossroads of Traitors and Prime Meridian–as bone-snapping breakdowns are joined together by grimy, groove-ridden sequences of shred-heavy riffing. Lloyd Jarrett laces every song with insidious fretwork, constantly pummeling the listener with jarring, jostling grooves and punishingly heavy slams. For a brilliant example of this, the listener need look no further than the bustling opening sequence to “Faux Pas.” Jarrett leads the way with dynamic, furious fretwork that carves deep, gushing lacerations into the listener’s flesh, only to drop into an ultra-dissonant breakdown at the drop of a hat. Each gnarly groove or grotesque breakdown Jarrett lets loose with is hammered home by the tight percussive efforts of Jarred Matthews. Matthews is murderous behind the kit, whether it’s with skin-shredding blast beats (a la “Deathless”) or pummeling portions of expert double-kick work (heard in “Faux Pas”). Matthews’ intensity is amplified by the booming bass work from Scott Jones, who roars like a cannon behind each enormous thud of Matthews’ mammoth kick drum. Together, this trio establish a remarkably tight instrumental dynamic that expertly flows from unbelievable heaviness to contagiously catchy grooviness without warning or reason.
As The Sign of Four’s furious instrumentation creates a winding, diverse soundscape, the trio are painted upon by a sturdy, engaging vocal performance provided by Danny Munoz. Munoz’ vocals–while not necessarily the most magnificent offering heavy music has ever seen–are intense, engaging and, most importantly, diverse. Munoz lets loose with a vicious vocal assault and downright pissed lyrics that mirror the eviscerating nature of Serpentine perfectly. From the first furious syllable of “Grey,” throughout the unimaginably aggressive title track, Serpentine sees Munoz creating a veritable maelstrom of menace and misanthropy with mere words. What’s more is that while he doesn’t abuse his sprawling vocal range, the moments where he does shift pitch and tone are nothing short of perfect–those who need convincing would do well to scrutinize Munoz’ marvelous use of vocals during any one of “Grey”‘s gut wrenching transitions.
From start to finish, Serpentine is a menacing and immersive EP that will keep the listener’s ears peeled and head banging. This talented quartet have created a diverse, destructive dynamic of groove-and-gore metalcore that many veteran bands could only dream of creating. Whether it’s the out-of-nowhere slam that kneecaps the listener in “Faux Pas” or “Vermin,” with its catchy–yet crushing–candor led by oppressive vocals and punchy percussion, The Sign of Four have crafted a brief–but blistering–EP made up of hit after hit. What the band lack in content (as Serpentine is a touch short), they make up for with diversity and sheer destruction. Serpentine is a scalding effort densely packed with some of the greatest and most diverse stylings of heaviness metalcore has seen to date–even if the listener may need to smash the “replay” button a couple times in order to get their fill.
Limp, dangling and lifeless, The Sign of Four’s debut effort leaves no survivors. Serpentine is a sinister and intense effort that steals more than just the listener’s sanity–as it is heavy enough to rob them of their well-being to boot.
For Fans Of: Nexilva, Prime Meridian, Amber Sea, Traitors, Bermuda
By: Connor Welsh