The fact that much of what is heard on "The Serpent" by Grand Rapids' STILL REMAINS is not my cup of tea does not mean that it will not appeal to those with a hankerin' for modern and melodic, mostly-metalcore. In fact, some of the tunes come with significant hooks. It is also a very professional sounding (read: polished as hell, full of chunky riffs, and propelled by a mighty rhythmic punch) album. Song-wise, the disc is somewhat of a mixed bag. The tracks are well put together, and a handful stand out for the songwriting, but a generic pall hangs over various songs as well.
The two-minute instrumental title track opens the album and is a rather cool piece with keyboards in the forefront, a gentle melody, and driving beat. The next couple of songs are album highlights. "The Wax Walls of an Empty Room" is one of many that includes growls alternated with melodic cleans. A tough rhythm and a strong hook make it a memorable track. "Stay Captive" follows suit, this time relying on melodic clean vocals to make its point for the duration. The use of keyboards, often anchoring the central melody, is one aspect of the album that makes a significant impact, perhaps the best demonstration of it on "Dancing with the Enemy". Though a tad on the generic side, the melodic underpinnings make the splash a sizeable one.
A Gothenburg-esque attack with lots of chunkiness finds its way into several songs. "Anemia In Your Sheets" is one of several that combines a melodic sensibility with a heavy approach; it is also one of the many tunes featuring melodic guitar solos that work pretty well. Too bad a sickly sweet throwaway ballad called "Maria" kills the momentum. But it is on album-closer "Avalanche" that the band really goes for a melodeath kick, albeit a more accessible version of it. "Dropped from the Cherry Tree" is a double-bass driven metalcore tune with thick riffing and a clean chorus. By this time though, most folks will have probably had their fill, as the ultimately forgettable "The River Song", the so-so "Sleepless Nights Alone", and the indistinct "An Undesired Reunion" all possess more than a modicum of worth, but the luster wears thin.
If I were a betting man I'd wager that "The Serpent" would fill the hearts of the mall crawlers with glee, and honestly, that is not a jab. STILL REMAINS knows a thing or two about forceful impact and tunefulness. But aside from a few melodies that stick, a robust production, and several moments of heavy-hitting goodness, the memories of songs past fade quicker than they should. Then again, I'm probably not part of the target demographic.