Serotonal- Monumental

(Union Black Records)

Monumental is a pretty good name for this album, but I reckon Monstrous might have been better. Not because it’s horrible or evil or ugly or rubbish or anything, but because Ex-Anathema singing bloke Darren White sounds like a scouse rhino getting podded off David Beckham over and over again. His voice is an absolutely colossal full-bellied roar clear across the top of most of this record, and it’s really rather nice.

I’m having trouble, though, coming up with an easy comparison, which I suppose is good. It’s got some of that bellowing, powerful Phil Anselmo character, but it isn’t quite that full-on. And there are all these reflective, quiet bits where he sounds more sort of Nick Cave-y, but that isn’t quite it either. Anyway, it’s good, right. It’s probably the best thing about this album.

Serotonal apparently call themselves doom, among other things, and you can see the influence, especially in the lyrics, a lot of which are quite upset about something or other. Probably girls, or the landing lightbulb blowing again, or running out of milk just when you fancy some porridge. The sound is definitely crushing and oppressive enough. But although it might just be my own peculiar tastes, a good chunk of Monumental seems to be going at too fast a clip to really be called doom.

There’s a nice, crackly tension, you see, between the heavier, faster bits and the slower, gentler bits of this album. It’s a curious mix in a way, and this is the reason why: White’s deep-chested bellow is so compelling and fun to listen to that you spend a lot of the quieter bits just wishing he’d pack up crooning and knock back another pint of gravel. I’d even go as far as to say I don’t really like his voice in the quieter bits. But it’s nice to have the dynamics and it only helps to build suspense, making the crunchy pay-offs all the more satisfying. Quick lesson in basic orchestration, there. Fundamentally, Serotonal sound a bit like the dead-underrated Headswim to me, if you remember them. If you don’t, go and look.

Talking tunes, Now It’s Over seems to be quite emblematic of this overall theme. It’s a nice, heavy driving song with a big, aggressive ostinato and a refrain barked with such energy that you can’t help but be dragged into nodding it along its way. After a couple of minutes it halves its pace while White has a bit of a grumbling whisper about someone not closing the cereal box properly and there’s an off-kilter solo break, and you think ‘hm, this is nice’. And then it goes the other way again, and it’s actually nigh-on brilliant. Natureality is cut from pretty much the same cloth, and makes for a nice energetic closer.

White brings in Chaosmind with bellows of ‘OKAY’ and ‘CAN YOU. FEEL IT.’ which I guess is better than ‘GO’ or ‘JUST ANOTHA BOMBTRACK’ or ‘STAY ON YOU’RE MUTHAFUCKEN TOES’. We’re thus launched into a nice bouncy mid-tempo riff touched with wah-wah, alternating with a few quieter broken chord verses that have got a bit of Morse code atmospherics lurking underneath them.

Hinge ( ), similarly, is pretty super, driven along on a nice, angular drum lick, and packing a chorus last seen pursuing Dr Jones down a dusty  Peruvian corridor. The title track is, meanwhile, probably the doomiest thing here. It’s comparatively slow and has a nice chugging phrase that for some reason brings to mind Everlong played at the wrong speed. Then, like everything else here, it lightens up and goes a bit quiet, before it blows up again. And really, it’s these sort of tunes that kind of point up the only really glaring flaw here: White’s voice just isn’t remotely as good when he’s not belting it out.

The lyrics also sound a bit burp to me, as well, to be utterly, handsomely, sexily honest, but I don’t really give a flap about them. Good, solid record, otherwise. Give it a go.

8/10

www.myspace.com/serotonal

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