I love Converge and Norma Jean. These two bands helped elevate metalcore/mathcore to a new level early on, and still manage to pump out prime material to this very day. It pleases me greatly that their influence still holds strong, and such seems to be the case for Sweden's Snake Tongue. And once again, I am not surprised at all to find that Converge's own Kurt Ballou played "an essential part" in the mixing of this album, Raptor's Breath. The band describes the release as the "perfect combination of the Swedish and US scenes."
The title track does not waste a "breath" (see what I did there :-P) getting down to business. This song could have easily fit on Meridional with its killer intro of rumbling, mathy bass and minimalist drumming to match the pace. That's not to mention the squealing guitar hook and explosions of headbanging chaos. The vocals could have been performed by Corey Putman himself, though they also carry just enough of Jacob Bannon's inflection to carry both torches at the same time. The fun doesn't stop here either; in fact it's only just begun.
Snake Tongue play around with stylistic choices and song lengths a bit on this album. You've got more mathcore violence in tracks like ""Post Mortem Spasma" and "Altar" that could have also found their way onto Axe to Fall. I know they said he did the mixing, but are we sure Kurt isn't ghostwriting these guitar parts? The band also likes to throw in the occasional more straight-forward, blink-and-you'll-miss-it blast of hardcore on shorter songs like "In Stone" and "Death Dance." Staying true to their peers, there's also the occasional slower, sludgy moment ("Lashes"). Navigating these subtle switches definitely keeps the album feeling fresh throughout, and they pull every track off like professionals.
If I have one peice of constructive criticism, it's where I would like to see the band go from here. Raptor's Breath is undeniably catchy, fun, and well-played, but at times the connections between these tracks and songs of their peers are pretty 1:1. So much so that this can come off more as a tribute/cover album than a set of original songs. That having been said, it is a righteous tribute. Looking forward, I'd like to see Snake Tongue delve a little deeper into their own sound. You've got the songwriting, you've got the musicanship, you've got a great set of idols to draw from...now take some time to do some introspection. How can you take this to the next level; staying true to your influences but creating something truly novel in the process? I'll leave that question with you. In the meantime, I'll be jamming this album for a while.