Thursday, October 31, 2013

…an evening of redness in the West: IN THE COMPANY OF SERPENTS – ‘Of the Flock’

By mixing laid-back, ominous swamp guitar licks with the hazy, sun-scorched twang of the American Southwest, Denver’s own In the Company of Serpents have succeeded in pushing beyond the limitations of the straight-forward yet unrelentingly heavy sludge of their self-titled debut into a realm of brimstone, lost souls, and abandoned faith that would leave Sergio Leone and Cormac McCarthy cowering and at a loss for words. ‘Of The Flock’ finds the duo of Grant Netzorg (vocals, guitars, fuzz) and Joseph Weller Myer (drums, apothecary) tweaking the band’s brand of boot-to-the-teeth, doom-as-fuck sludge by including regional influences that ultimately provides a soundtrack suitable for terrorizing a village, avenging a tragedy, or simply to finding redemption through blood. It’s clear that the band has evolved and progressed and ‘Of the Flock’ has a unique, distinctive tone and style that was missing from their debut.

The majority of tracks that comprise ‘Of the Flock’ have been rigorously road-tested in a live setting prior to the band entering the studio. Recorded locally by Jamie Hillyer and mixed and mastered by none-other than producer/engine-ear Billy Anderson, ‘Of the Flock’ manages to successfully capture the essence and live sound of the band—a recording feat previously achieved and rivalled by Tad Doyle’s accomplishment with Uzala’s excellent ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’. The five tracks of In the Company of Serpents’ latest burn with an intensity and ferocity that nearly matches the band’s live performance, particularly on the album versions of live staples “Craven” and “Of the Flock”. “Craven” manages to almost perfectly reproduce the busy, frantic drumming style of Myer along with the harsh, damning bellows of Netzorg, not to mention the guitar tone which is spot on. The title-track “Of the Flock” is another example of the band’s intense live sound caught on tape. The unassuming Spaghetti Western-style guitar lick is soon replaced with blasts of fuzz and huge, spastic drumming—a potent combination underscoring Netzorg’s throat-shredding demand to know, “What makes a man abandon faith?”

‘Of the Flock’ is, in essence, the sonic equivalent of damnation and Hellfire for the high plains drifter. Fans of the band’s self-titled should have no problems making the leap to the more expansive and progressive sound that encapsulates their newest release. And, consequently, anyone who has caught their live shows and have dug what they heard will definitely be on board. The dirty, low-end riffs and drumming acrobatics have remained intact, but the duo has managed to incorporate additional influences to carve out a unique sound and vision all their own. In what has been a stellar year for heavy music, In the Company of Serpents have managed to release an album that is easily “Top 10” worthy. ‘Of the Flock’ manages to be huge, ugly, and uncompromising while still remaining accessible and engaging—a balancing act that few bands can successfully manage. Get the album digitally from the band’s Bandcamp page, or better yet, order the vinyl.

Words: Steve Miller

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