ALBUM REVIEW: In The Company Of Serpents – Lux

Denver Stoner/Sludge outfit In The Company Of Serpents has spent most of its eight years as a fluctuating two-piece, with only vocalist and guitarist Grant Netzorg as the constant. The arrival of Vermin Womb‘s JP Damron to the drumseat has seen an expansion to a trio with the addition of ex-Black Sheep of Kali stringman Ben Pitts and, maybe as a result, fourth album Lux (Self-Release) adds elements of invention and atmosphere to the core sound, demonstrating welcome growth.

‘The Fool’s Journey’ kicks off proceedings with a gentle, atmospheric Country twang. The bass fuzz is remarkable given the subtle nature of the opening, but this is soon replaced by crunching riffs and Netzorg’s rough growl which sounds like Kirk Windstein after a night gargling razor blades. Nevertheless there’s an urgency and fluidity to the template, flickering between those gentler moments and some weighty, Doom grooves. The track finishes with a Thrash-flavoured workout and eases sleazily into ‘Scales of Maat’: a funky lead riff turning into the rain-soaked backstreet of a 1930s film noir. There remains real beef to the undercurrent but the time changes maintain that feeling of liveliness despite a crawling, Blackened second movement that’s graced by the diseased roars of Primitive Man‘s Ethan McCarthy and KhemmisBen Hutcherson.

It’s a mighty opening but the band show a delicate side with two interludes – ‘Daybreak’ and the penultimate ‘Nightfall’ – which celebrate birth and recognise death respectively, displaying a Neo-Folk leaning that adds to the album’s attraction. The Dark Country vibe reappears with ‘The Chasm at the Mouth of the All’, where Netzorg’s cavernous retch is counterbalanced with a Jaye Jayle-esque whisper and which possesses real musicality: switching between Tennessee-inspired arrangements and that NOLA heaviness for a great Blues Stoner experience. The booming ‘Lightchild’, meanwhile, carries the same brooding intensity: more profound lead chords creating an aura before the crunching, shredding riff powers into staggering effect. The more rampant might of ‘Archonic Manipulation’, however, is a powerhouse, bringing to mind some of Mastodon‘s progressive form of bludgeon.

Closer ‘Prima Materia’ begins with Flamenco-style guitars and rhythms, spellbinding guitarwork sharing the scene with Damron’s drums until that growl enters the fray but more tempered, and beautifully accompanied by Bluegrass twangs toward the crushing coda. It’s a treat of a way to end an album sticking true to its creators’ genre but full of unexpected spice, tastier flavours which outshine the expected stodge.

7 / 10

PAUL QUINN