At this point, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion have built up such a profile around the underground and festival circuits that there’s really not much more that can be said about them. With a moniker derived from the influx of deadly snakes into the town of St. Pierre following the eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902, they come across about as volatile as one might expect with a brand of hardcore that leans heavily into its sense of irreverence and vitality, but again, that’s all common knowledge at this point. It’s been four years since their last album, and having spent that time mercilessly slogging away and making as much noise as humanly possible, it’s safe to call them something of a cult favourite, especially when they seem to leave one hell of an impression upon everyone who comes into contact with them. And thus, that makes for the perfect time to release Caprice Enchanté, keeping their power intact but bending it in new and intriguing ways.
So with all of that in mind, Caprice Enchanté feels like a perfectly on-brand move for The St. Pierre Snake Invasion to make at this stage, keeping its wiry, incendiary nature as a consistently exciting backbone, even when it doesn’t always pan out quite so well. Yes, an album like this is always going to have some rough edges left in, and while Caprice Enchanté’s serve just as much as part of the charm as so many others in their stable, it’s easy to see where minor tweaks could have been made to turn this from an album whose unpredictability makes it engrossing, and one that can use that as a boon to elevate itself among the best of the year.
But even so, there’s no shame in the fact that Caprice Enchanté can slightly struggle there. Even for what’s here already, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion are channelling an inventiveness that should really have more of a place in modern hardcore, as shrapnel-shaped guitar fragments burst out of Remystery and the title track to match Damien Sayell’s sneering vocals that contort into equally flayed screams. When everything connects into a robust final product, it’s some of the most thrillingly detailled and diverse hardcore of the year, though to see the band stumble when they do feels like a point where some elements could’ve been refined or tweaked if only to mask some of the seams within these soundclashes. The biggest culprit is Carroll A.Deering with leaden transitions between hardcore, math-rock tetchiness and an out-of-nowhere choral interlude that can feel almost impossibly awkward to get into, something that, in general, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion are good at avoiding. Beyond isolated examples where their grip can start to loosen, this is a remarkably dexterous listen that consistently skirts between sounds and time signatures with little hassle, and it culminates into a hardcore album with a genuine sense of ruthlessness to its creativity that’s enormously admirable.
Of course, that hunger has to be focused on something, and thematically, Caprice Enchanté feels just as rich in its exploration of expectations of life from the perspective of Sayall’s younger self, and how that more innocent mindset is something to be sought after once again when nothing goes as planned. The nucleus of this comes from life as a musician in the title track, and how the perceived life of fame and fortune eventually gives way for a sense of lacking in fulfillment, but The St. Pierre Snake Invasion are smart enough to extrapolate into wider contexts, whether that’s something that remains on a human level or tessellates into the wider world. Thus, the parallels are drawn to the ego on The Safety Word Is Oklahoma and the pressure to conform to masculine ideals of stoicism on Things To Do In Denbigh When You’re Dead, but also the prevalence of damaging political rhetoric that’s seen the needle shift so far right on Braindead, and how it’s all encompassed by a waned romanticism of how the future will simply be easier and better. And with the execution as cutting as it is, it’s all the easier to tell how much of this comes from a place of dejected, jaded tiredness that just drives home the points even further.
It all makes for an album that, at points, surges forward with a level of greatness that just a bit more fine-tuning could ensure is the standard set by this band from now on. It definitely feels necessary, too; on the whole, The St. Pierre Snake Invasion are putting in an enormous effort to really push the boat out within modern punk and hardcore, and they’re currently in spitting distance of achieving that on Caprice Enchanté. Even when they don’t though, it’d be simply wrong to call this a disappointment, especially when it caps off a remarkably fruitful period in this band’s career that, judging by everything on show here, doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon.
For fans of: Gallows, Future Of The Left, Irk
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Caprice Enchanté’ by The St. Pierre Snake Invasion is released on 21st June.