Serpentine Dominion, a super group if you will, has its origins dating back as far as 2009. At that time Killswitch Engage, Cannibal Corpse, and The Black Dahlia Murder were all part of the Rockstar Mayhem Fest that summer. Apparently there were many conversations that resulted in KSE’s Adam Dutkiewicz wroting songs specifically for George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher to sing over. Eventually this lead to tapping All That Remains/BDM/Battlecross drummer, Shannon Lucas to handle the job behind the kit and with Dutkiewicz handling all guitar and bass, Serpentine Dominion was born. Now in 2016, 7 years after the bands origins, we are finally delivered their debut, self-titled full length.

Admittedly I haven’t been a fan of Killswitch Engage, pretty much since Howard Jones joined the band. Not that he’s a bad singer, he’s not and he’s a hell of a front man, but their songs just started to take a much too melodic/safe/mainstream/whatever you want to call it approach that pushed me away. So when hearing this was a Dutkiewicz project, I had my hesitations. Would it be more of the same or would he be using this as a chance to try something new that wouldn’t necessarily fit with KSE? Then I heard George Fisher was onboard. As one of my favorite vocalists in death metal, this was enough to get me to give it a shot. I couldn’t see Fisher attaching his name and vocal talents to a band that was weak and not relatively death metal. Lucas, for my lack of interest in any of his projects, is at least a competent drummer so I had no fears there.

Now that it’s here, I’m not sure how I feel about it. For starters there is a ton of things I love about this record. Some serious technical death metal licks, blistering drumming wizardry, some uber heavy ass, but not forced breaks, and George Fisher continuing to be the Corpsegrinder he is. Lyrically it’s not all blood and guts and more about “getting revenge on corrupt motherfuckers”, as Fisher so eloquently put in an interview. Even with clear nods to both Cannibal Corpse and Killswitch Engage in there, it is definitely a nice departure from both; something fresh for those involved. It’s also produced extremely well. With all that is going on during each song, nothing ever gets lost. Even when singer Jesse Leach (who also served as the album’s lyricist) takes center stage, Fisher is dropped back just enough to make Leach get center stage but still provide that powerful “oomph” behind him.

Now, with the mention of Leach being involved, it brings me to the biggest gripe I have with the record. Since this is mainly an Adam Dutkiewicz project, while he gets praise for about 75% of the record, he also gets to take the blame for its shortcomings as well. After hearing a few snippets of songs leading up to its release and then getting through the first two tracks on the album, I really thought he left the KSE melodic metalcore world behind for this project. I was clearly wrong. In the midst of some seriously punishing riffs, he breaks away to transition into choruses that could be on any KSE record to date, all with Jesse Leach singing over them. Meanwhile, as I previously stated, Fisher remains in those parts just belting out his gutturals but underneath the clean vocals. These parts, which aren’t even on every song, come so out of left field that it completely halts the enjoyment of the songs. Leach has a tremendous voice but it’s not something that works here at all. They should have just let Fisher do his thing and leave it at that. Very frustrating. There was no need to pretty it up.

With the odd decision to include the melody, it’s really hard for me to recommend this record even with all its positive notes. Seriously, this would be one of the better records of the year if they just kept it death metal. If the goal was to do death but also latch onto a more mainstream audience, I think they fail at that too because there also isn’t nearly enough of it for that to happen. Give it a shot, I guess. But I’ll probably be letting this collect dust in the very near future.