Wednesday, January 14, 2015

...In the Company of Serpents - 'Merging in Light' EP

Cataclysmic doom duo In the Company of Serpents have consistently topped themselves since the release of their self-titled debut in 2012. Grant Netzorg and Joseph Weller Myer have not only churned out some of the finest sludge-infused doom metal of the past couple of years, but they are also impressive due to their energetic, workmanlike live shows and their DIY attitude and approach to releasing music. 2013’s 'Of the Flock' found the band spreading their wings by embracing atmospheric touches and regional influences that were suggestive of sun-scorched desert plains, abandoned faith, and redemption through blood. 'Merging in Light,' the band’s latest, finds the duo at their angriest. Like its predecessor, 'Merging in Light' accomplishes the amazing feat of capturing the gargantuan tone, energy, and overall essence of the band in a live setting. Whether you’re spinning their vinyl or checking them out at a venue, it’s hard to believe that there are really only two guys blasting out these impossibly heavy tunes.

Within the realm of heavy music, In the Company of Serpents occupy a space all their own. Their vitriolic sludge is tempered with catchy yet acerbic riffs, propulsive drumming, and Grant Netzorg’s bellows—the sound of fire and brimstone belched straight from the mouth of Hell. EP opener “Breed, Consume, Die” is a monstrous tune that encapsulates what the band does best: crafting monolithically jarring compositions that balance groove with sheer ugliness. “Third Mind,” arguably the EP’s strongest track, pulses with a life of its own. Blasts of fuzz-laden distortion rhythmically explode as if from a cannon, resulting in one of the finest sludge tracks of the year. Seriously, it sounds as if Netzorg is discharging a battery of rounds from a fuzz-charged howitzer. Add to the cacophony a twisted, razor-sharp guitar solo, and “Third Mind” stands as one of the band’s most memorable tunes. If “Third Mind” stands as one of the band’s most engaging tracks, then EP closer “A Union of Opposites” could be considered their most dynamic. The intro is a slow-burn of tribal drumming, unsettling notes distantly chiming, and one of Netzorg’s Southwest by-way-of-sludge licks. “A Union of Opposites” is a heavy, brooding track that is embellished with swaths of tremolo picking which add an atmospheric undercurrent that punctuates the band’s growth and progression.

In the Company of Serpents have, yet again, succeeded in crafting a collection of tunes that are malicious and ugly, while still possessing an irrefutable catchiness. While the band seems to be embracing and exploiting their time in the studio for the occasional overdub or sound effect, it should be noted that they are not doing so at the expense of their live sound. 'Merging in Light' is easily one of the year’s best, though it may be held back by its brevity. Perhaps not as spacey or as sprawling as Yob, In the Company of Serpents channels the same degree of unbridled anger, but without the occasional glimpse of hope or transcendence that is often intimated by Mike Scheidt & Co.

(Originally published at Heathen Harvest Periodical, Edited by Sage Weatherford)