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Opprobrium: “Serpent Temptation” 1988’s Original & 1996’s Alternate Version

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Last Updated on 16:34 by Giorgos Tsekas

Opprobrium is a “difficult” moniker especially when everyone knows you as Incubus which is catchier and your story is as old as old is Death metal…unfortunately another Incubus won and kept the name so brothers Howard and Latour had to continue with a different name…As we’ve mention their story is coming from almost 40 years back when in 1982, teenage brothers Moyses and Francis M. Howard moved from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to New Orleans, Louisiana with their parents. In 1986 they formed Incubus (now known as Opprobrium) together with bass player/singer Scot W. Latour.

It took them a 4track demo (the deluxe edition of their reissue contains 3cds; one of them has the original demo plus 6 more songs: “Death”, “Hell’s Fire”, “Serpent Temptation”, “Sadistical Sinner”, “Cataleptic”, “Voices from the Grave”, “Rigor Mortis”, “Incubus”, “Blind Vengeance” and “Assault”) and just a year to record their debut that would turn them into pioneers of the genre. Originally recorded in  1988 Serpent Temptation stands out for Moyses´ blast-beat and hyper snare drumming, a way that wasn’t so popular back then, but it was more than that that separated Incubus from other bands before 35 years. There was a balance of kicking Thrash parts and heavier moments with Francis´ fast-paced riffing, and sometimes crazy and other melodic solos and Latour´s rich and thick lines, while generally speaking melodic ideas were spread here and there through all this marvellous but not blasphemous (the album has lyrics from Christian point of view;no kidding) full length in its entirety.

Thrash was dominated by hate, anger and chaos and Incubus were delivering exactly these ‘goods’ in a excellent mixture of raw Thrash and primitive Death Metal like Roger “Rogga” Pettersson with his Merciless and Petrozza with veins of Terrorizer while vocals reminding me a bit of Master’s Paul Speckmann but with enriched with more mid-range style shouts.

Serpent Temptation was also one of the first international releases of a label that would write History in extreme sound, the mythical and then-revolutionary, German Nuclear Blast, which also released both its successors Beyond the Unknown (1990) also an instant classic convicted to exist through the centuries and Discerning Forces (2000, by then under the name Opprobrium) as well as, in 1996, a new recording of Serpent Temptation.

Latour was already out of the band and Francis decided to also took over vocal duties and re-worked the lyrics in addition of also re-recording the bass for this alternate version.

In their own words: “The idea of doing Serpent Temptation in a different version came to surface in the mid 90’s, we had an idea that we wanted to see how the album would sound in a different version. So out of curiosity we (Francis and Moyses) decided to do it. We decided to go back to also Angeles flying out of New Orleans and going back to the same studio that the original Serpent Temptation got mixed in 1988 and make the re-recorded version happen there. We were happy to see how this re-recorded version of the album came out. The album proved that it sounded different and at the same time sounded great in a different version of it. We feel that with this re-release of Opprobrium’s debut re-recorded version we gave our fans an opportunity to enjoy another journey of an album hidden for a long time in our music catalog that is finally out once again in a proper release…”

Now I believe that the 1996 version is a heavier one with better production (and artwork, too!), as the 1988 version is raw and  close to”Bestial Devastation” or “In the Sign of Evil” in terms of  how crude and unwrought it sounds, while the vocal lines are less snarling and closer to 90’s era Max Cavalera. And it is one of these rare moments where a band revisits an album and re-recorded it entirely, and the old material sound ‘better’ and their fans agree with the band’s decision without the original version lose any of its glory or status!

If you want to compare them there’s a 2023 ultimate editions of both versions of the album, restored by mastering specialist Patrick W. Engel (Amon Amarth, Cannibal Corpse etc al.) at Temple of Disharmony studio, with vinyl cutting courtesy of SST Germany.

Both incarnations of the album are available as single CD, LP and picture disc. Furthermore, the 1988 version comes out on double vinyl, featuring the group´s sole 1987 demo Supernatural Death – for the first time ever), which were recorded during the same sessions but never released until now, capturing the initial Incubus live at V.F.W. Hall in New Orleans on August 28, 1987.

Giorgos Tsekas
Giorgos Tsekas
"Κάποτε Όταν Θα ‘χουμε Καιρό... Θα Σκεφτούμε Πάνω Στις Ιδέες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Στοχαστών, Θα Θαυμάσουμε Τους Πίνακες Όλων Των Μεγάλων Ζωγράφων, Θα Γελάσουμε Με Όλους Τους Χωρατατζήδες, Θα Φλερτάρουμε Όλες Τις Γυναίκες, Θα Διδάξουμε Όλους Τους Ανθρώπους" Μπ. Μπρεχτ

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