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SERPENTYNE

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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Serpentyne picture
Serpentyne biography
Formed: 2010, Greater London, United Kingdom
Status as of April 2018: Active

SERPENTYNE mixes the medieval, ancient, and contemporary instrumentation and lyrics, layered with a renaissance motifs. The group augments their numerous live performances with period dress and dance for a unique audio and visual experience.

A precursor to SERPENTYNE was formed in 2007 as MAGGIE SANDS and SANDRAGON, releasing one album in 2009, "Susie Fair". Maggie-Beth Sand (lead singer and multi-instrumentalist) and Mark Powell (guitar, hurdy-gurdy, keyboards) regrouped with several of the prior compatriots in 2010, and their first album, "Stella Splendens", was released that year. Since then, SERPENTYNE's fusion of traditional and self-penned tunes and songs with rock and DJ grooves has taken them to concert and festival stages of all types, across the UK and mainland Europe.

They have headlined at major festivals such as Montreux, and have played opening slots for artists such as Rick Wakeman and The Orb. 2014 saw the release of their critically-acclaimed second album, "Myths and Muses". It was much more upbeat than their debut and harder to dismiss as just another Celtic/medieval band. Still, "The Serpent's Kiss" released in 2016, incorporated Scandinavian metal into their sound and served notice that SERPENTYNE intends to evolve with their fans while earning new ones along the way.

Music press calls SERPENTYNE the UK's premier 'Mythic Rock' band and warmly characterizes their music:
"Turbocharged folk" - Prog magazine, UK.
"A heady mix... think Ozric Tentacles meets the Orb meets Gregorian chant" - Americana, UK.
"The next big thing in folk-rock" - Northwest Folk, UK.

>> Bio by Bob Moore (aka ClemofNazareth) and SERPENTYNE<<

Expanded and updated by Ken Levine (kenethlevine) April 2018

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SERPENTYNE discography


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SERPENTYNE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.10 | 2 ratings
Stella Splendens
2010
4.45 | 4 ratings
Myths and Muses
2014
3.48 | 4 ratings
The Serpent's Kiss
2016

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SERPENTYNE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Serpent's Kiss by SERPENTYNE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.48 | 4 ratings

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The Serpent's Kiss
Serpentyne Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars One thing is clear about this UK "world prog" band - they don't get into a rut! On their third album they continue to explore middle eastern motifs but shift some of the context to Nordic pomp metal. This infuses higher drama and urgency into their craft, like a somewhat gentler amalgam of EPICA and NIGHTWISH. I think comparisons to more obscure bands like NORDAGUST on "Spirit of the Desert" and THOBY LOTH on "Morrighan's Jig" and the enthralling instrumental closer "Game of Thrones" are justified as well. Still, if the mere titles like "Jeanne D'Arc" don't have you reaching for your ELOY collection, then the principal instrumental riff in "Helen of Troy" will surely trigger long lost reveries of FRANK BORNEMANN's obsession with feminine power.

In spite of the undeniable appeal of the band's ethnic spread, I do feel that some spirit has been lost in execution, resulting in a partially squandered opportunity. While most individual tracks are more than competent and at times even exciting, as a collective work this lacks sufficient conviction of its own identity to mark real progress. While "Myths and Muses" channeled its influences into a fully formed end product, "The Serpent's Kiss" sounds more like a follower, albeit a skilled one whom the leader would be glad to find in their footsteps. Even closer examination of the quasi metallic metamorphosis reveals that chugging rhythm guitar is the main source of the embellishments, which dampens their effect over the course of the end product. This isn't really so different from its predecessor after all, and most of the difference amounts to abstractions and distractions.

Weaknesses aside, this still might be the go-to disk for most prog fans who want to own something by SERPENTYNE, and who enjoy the hitherto forbidden fruits of florid metal with a heart of folk.

 Stella Splendens by SERPENTYNE album cover Studio Album, 2010
2.10 | 2 ratings

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Stella Splendens
Serpentyne Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

2 stars The first album by UK medieval folk group SERPENTYNE was cast as MAGGIE-BETH SAND AND SERPENTYNE, which followed on from an earlier incarnation, MAGGIE SAND and SANDRAGON. This is well played but somewhat emotionally lacking acoustic music with a preference for ancient even obsolete instrumentation and Latin lyrics. It's a bit like BLACKMORE's NIGHT without the commercial savvy, electric guitar (or indeed even the bright acoustic guitar), or familiar tune recognition. Comparisons to the lesser, consciously ancient output of DEAD CAN DANCE are also valid.

While this is music for a certain mood, it's also rather self limiting in terms of dynamism and indeed its potential audience. As it turned out, SERPENTYNE evolved from disk to disk, so either they sensed this road to be a developmental dead end or they randomly discovered divergent and more expressive routes. I would not start here with an exploration of this band unless the description appeals to you, but instead begin with their follow up, the far more compelling and indeed progressive "Myths and Muses". 2.5 stars rounded down.

 Myths and Muses by SERPENTYNE album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.45 | 4 ratings

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Myths and Muses
Serpentyne Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

4 stars Plucking inspiration from LOREENA MCKENNITT's later and more worldly exploits, UK band SERPENTYNE proposes a series of trance-inducing takes on traditional pieces from the Celtic diaspora and beyond. So, while the mere presence of "Gaudete" and "Rosebud in June" may shout out modern day STEELEYE SPAN from the nearest rain soaked hills, there is thankfully more than a little whirling dervish in even these interpretations that negates any superfluity.

Maggie Beth-Sands possesses a sultry and authoritative voice that swirls about the interpretations on a slyly unlikely concoction of the ultra trad and the electronically polished. "Valkyries" and "Freya' s Firedance" are perhaps the most brilliant homage to the seemingly incompatible elements on display here, from the demented vocal harmonies to the breakneck hurdy gurdy. A couple of tunes sung in French channel the band's inner MALICORNE meets the MCGARRIGLE sisters, which only heightens the sense of open minded exploration, and validates the use of Breton instrumentation, whether anyone asked for it or not. If another version of "Pastyme with Good Company" has you preparing to burn your BLACKMORE's NIGHT CDs in ritual effigy, do give this one a listen, as further proof that this band lacks not for inventiveness.

It certainly doesn't get easier to interpret some of this oft covered material in a manner that not only prevents petrification (or even putrefaction) but actually freshens it. SERPENTYNE has accomplished this feat, making them one of the more worthy proponents of new/neo folk music.

 The Serpent's Kiss by SERPENTYNE album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.48 | 4 ratings

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The Serpent's Kiss
Serpentyne Prog Folk

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars UK band SERPENTYNE first appeared in 2009, and have established themselves as an active live and recording unit since then. They have three studio albums to their name so far. "The Serpent's Kiss" appeared in 2016, and is the most recent of these.

While I'm not familiar with the material of the first Serpentyne album, their second one was a most charming endeavor exploring music I'd pretty much describe as a folk music version of Ozric Tentacles. While the folk music element is still present as of 2016, Serpentyne have opted to take their folk music inspirations in a rather different direction this time around.

Initially you kind of get the impression that the band wants to take a bite of the symphonic metal market, as the opening cuts in particular with it's bombastic blend of majestic orchestral details, powerful guitars and operatic female lead vocals kind of plays straight into the center of such excursions. But as the rest of the album unfolds, a bit more variety is at hand, even of the orchestral details reappear from time to time.

The greater majority of the material is of a different character however. Folk metal or possibly folk hard rock is how I'd describe these cuts, with theatrical, female lead vocals placed on top of a foundation with a hard rock and metal at the core and a liberal amount of folk-tinged elements present. In vocals, in dominant or subservient motifs or due to various instrument details. With liberal amounts of flavoring from the hurdy gurdy adding a subtly exotic sheen to the proceedings. On occasion electronic elements are added in to provide us with some of the charms also present on their previous album, at other times the band opts to go for more of a straight forward concoction of hard rock with folk music details present one way or the other. Even on the concluding cut, Game of Thrones, the gentle Celtic tinged folk music opening sequences gives way to more of a hard rock founded arrangement after a bit.

Personally I have to admit that I found this band more charming in their previous guise, perhaps due to them exploring a type of music a bit further removed from what many other artists produce. At the same time it's easy to hear that the music on this new CD will have a much broader appeal, even of perhaps not quite as sophisticated nor wild and free in character. Majestic metal with a certain pompous grandeur and theatrical either operatic or semi-operatic female lead vocals is, after all, one of the more popular niche genres present in the genre jungle of music these days. Serpentyne are good at what they do too, there's no question about that. Still, I do hope they will if not revisit then at least include a few more of the charming, untamed folk and electronic blends that was so utterly charming last time around on any future productions.

Those with a strong fascination for bands operating out from a hard rock and heavy metal foundation to create a blend of those styles of music with folk music should find Serpentyne's latest studio album to be well worth spending some time with. A certain fascination for symphonic metal is warranted too, but it is the former and not the latter description that, in my opinion at least, defines this CD.

 Myths and Muses by SERPENTYNE album cover Studio Album, 2014
4.45 | 4 ratings

BUY
Myths and Muses
Serpentyne Prog Folk

Review by Windhawk
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars UK band SERPENTYNE was formed back in 2009, and released their debut album "Stella Splendens" the following year. Since then they have been touring extensively in the UK and in Europe, up to and including performing at several festival. "Myths and Muses" is their second studio production, and was released in the summer of 2014.

Serpentyne is among the bands I see classified as neo-folk, a style of music I really don't know all that much about but which I presume are applied to artists that approach folk music in a manner regarded as contemporary or modern. As far as that goes Serpentyne accomplish that with ease, and have managed to create an album that combines the traits of being familiar sounding yet also adding distinct and often dominant traits from the modern world into a folk music context.

There's nothing substantial new about this really, as rock bands have paired of their compositions with folk music and vice versa for many years already, and the classic folk rock is given a slight nod on this production as well. What separates Serpentyne from folk rock bands is that they focus more on pairing off the folk music with electronic instruments, and as such the end result is a tad closer to the likes of, for instance, Ozric Tentacles, but with folk music details and vocals in place of cosmic and psychedelic elements.

Drones and techno inspired rhythms are key features in the landscapes crafted by Serpentyne, creating a compelling, energetic foundation that carries the songs forward with ease, and the hurdy-gurdy combines easily with this foundation to add a subtle, organic darkness to the proceedings. The crystal clear lead vocals of Maggie/Beth Sand serves as a stunning contrast to this darker backdrop, and complemented by flute, violin and harmonium in addition to what I though sounded like emulated bag pipes, additional acoustic and electronic percussion, layered harmony vocals and chants this all combines into a stunningly hypnotic end product. Kind of like a futuristic medieval landscape if you like, intense and driven in a good way and without the need for any dramatic effects to maintain tension and attention.

When that is said, this isn't an album of 160 BPM rhythms backing a female vocalist and Celtic inspired folk details. The landscapes explored are varied, and in terms of variation in intensity, the use of sparse arrangements and dreamladen interludes, as well as elongated passages and songs settling at a slower pace, a band like aforementioned Ozric Tentacles is a fair comparison, and Serpentyne doesn't ever kick off into a breakneck speed oriented affair. That the rhythms are techno-inspired doesn't mean that they are techno, to specify that, but that there's some techno or house music that is a likely source of inspiration be it directly or indirectly. The folk music details aren't limited to the generic Celtic either, as both Irish, Scandinavian and Middle Eastern inspired textures and sounds are applied, alongside a few that to my ears sounds just as English Earl Grey tea.

All in all a very well made production, without any weak spots as such as I experience this album. A highly compelling and hypnotic affair that should have a broad appeal across most demographics. As far as a key audience is concerned, I'd guess that those who enjoy folk and world music just as much as bands such as Ozric Tentacles might be at the heart of it, alongside those with a general interest in bands described as neo folk.

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead and kenethlevine for the last updates

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