• Opprobrium - Serpent Temptation

    Opprobrium - Serpent Temptation
    Released by: Relapse Records
    Released on: January 15th, 2016.
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    Opprobrium’s first album, 1988’s Serpent Temptation, gets the Relapse reissue treatment and as such is back in print for the first time in almost three decades. Re-mastered by Brad Boatright (of Sleep and Obituary fame) it sounds about as good as it probably should, which is to say it sounds like a late eighties death metal/thrash record. Don’t expect crystal clear production values here, it’s got a bit of a low budget underground sound to it. But it works. Made up of Francis M. Howard on vocals and guitar, Scot W. Latour on bass and vocals and Moyses M. Howard on drums, Opprobrium (formerly Incubus) were obviously way into Slayer when this was made, but then, who wasn’t?

    Opening track The Battle Of Armageddon starts off with a barrage of noise, the sounds of war, screaming and crashing and burning and then from there, the band launch into the opening track properly with some aggressive guitars, intense drumming and then the howling vocals overtop of some impressively fast playing. Like really fast… holy shit that’s fast.

    Voices From The Grave keeps things true to form, a heavy riff to start things off, some goofy but earnest dark, evil lyrics and then some serious thrashy, speedy playing with wild guitar licks flailing around pretty recklessly. Sadistic Sinner is a stand out track, heavy like the rest but a bit more melodic somehow. The drums kill here, they’re relentless and they come over you like a bulldozer but the other two members of the band hold their own here too. This has got a great tempo to it and it’s catchier than everything else on the record. Incubus (Opprobrium) keeps things fast, intense and evil and it might just be the heaviest song on the record, while Blaspheming Prophets shows off some really technical playing on Francis Howard’s part, just impressive in how intricate it gets in spots.

    Hunger For Power starts off a bit slower, a heavy riff overtaking the vocals a little bit more than you might want it to, but once it picks up the pace and Latour’s guttural, demonic singing style blends in perfectly with the stream of noise that the song becomes. The title track, Serpent Temptation, is so fast it’ll leave blisters on your ears, standing tall against similar material from the era like Death’s seminal Leprosy album (which came out the same year as this record). Last but not least, Underground Killers ends the record on a strong note, featuring a breakdown in the middle that sounds almost like it was lifted out of a vintage hardcore track before it heads straight back into metal territory again to end with a pulverizing sonic assault.

    When it’s all said and done, it’s kind of amazing that these guys didn’t get bigger than they did. This album proves that they’re every bit as good as a lot of the other bands that were playing in the death/thrash arena of the late eighties. Why they’re as overlooked as they are is hard to say, though it might have something to do with the availability and distribution of their early stuff. As far as the playing, the songwriting, the lyrical content and the overall sound of the band, however, Opprobrium were clearly a serious force to be reckoned with and have, with Serpent Temptation, put out an insanely fast and amazingly well executed milestone of a thrash/death album.

    If the re-mastered version of the album itself weren’t enough, this reissue from Relapse also includes Supernatural Death demo that is made up of earlier, rawer, versions of Serpent Temptation, Sadistic Sinner, Voices From The Grave and Incubus (Opprobrium). Lyrics and an interesting bio for the band are also included.

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. VinceP's Avatar
      VinceP -
      The REAL Incubus. Wish that shit band from the late 90's hadn't stolen their name.
    1. Ian Jane's Avatar
      Ian Jane -
      Ha, yep. These guys are definitely WAY better. Glad to see this back in print with bonus tracks.
    1. Tom K's Avatar
      Tom K -
      This was a really great album...Glad to see it out there again...Has always been a favorite of mine and an influence...In regard to wondering why they never got bigger...there is a lot of things...Beyond the Unknown came out after this and Frances sang on that...the production was very thin as well and the songs just did not grab as a result. Mind you, I am not all about production, but it was really week...and they just did not get the push from the label...They also redid this album in a sense...Frances redid the vocals and to me, it just did not feel the same...I really like Scot's vocals...Not to mention the whole name thing...the just messed everything up...Good review and glad to see it here!