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With the exception of an overdubbed lead in the last half of “Third Mind,” In The Company Of Serpents restrict themselves to three things on Merging In Light, their new self released EP: rhythm guitar, drums and vocals. It’s a meat and potatoes approach to one of metal’s most meat and potatoes offshoots. In The Company Of Serpents play a style of sludgy doom metal that gets a lot of mileage out of a very small batch of ideas. Some musicians resort to recording entire albums themselves because they don’t want anyone else coming between their ideas and the microphones. But guitarist/singer Grant Netzorg and drummer Joseph Myer keep the lineup of In The Company Of Serpents sparse because the music simply doesn’t require more than two people to play.

That Merging In Light is the product of a duo should be immediately apparent. Though the band sounds huge, mostly from double tracking the guitars, the songs are written with express focus on their instrumental parity. Even the doubled guitars are so similar and performed with such intense singularity that they could only come from the hands of one person. Netzorg’s playing as well as songwriting are completely devoid of pretense or embellishment. The riffs keep themselves locked into the bottom end of the guitar, working out variations on a small set of notes and rhythms. You could imagine a second guitarist adding some contrast, maybe a few counter melodies or some voicings in the upper register, but none of the three tracks want for lack of more guitar. Though not flashy, Netzorg remains engaging due to the strength of his tone, which has a meaty body as well as a grime-soaked layer of fuzz.

As a drummer Myer is less noteworthy, but given how much music of this nature depends on repetition, being steady is often more valuable than being exciting. The record’s short length is also a boon. Though the material remains fresh from start to finish, it’s easy to picture Merging In Light running out of steam and becoming a slog if it ran closer to the standard 40 minutes. The record’s closing track, “A Union Of Opposites,” already suffers from leaning too heavily on a single riff in the middle, but rebounds by shifting to a slower and more effective tempo in its final moments. A longer release by the band would call on them to make decisions like this more frequently, and would require Netzorg to find new shades of nuance in his vocal performance, which currently lies somewhere between Steve Von Till’s haggard melancholy and Phil Anselmo’s brazen muscularity.

The rudimentary quality of In The Company Of Serpents songwriting means that if they are to excel, they must do so through performance or production. Without either of those they could be easily dismissed only half a band. Good thing then that they are such natural fits for each other and that the production gives them the best possible platform to find that chemistry. There is of course a ceiling on how good this band can be in its current form. Their lack of anything that separates them from the crowd, other than competence, means they’ll rarely be the centerpiece of anyone’s listening habits. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t make an excellent addition to the collection of any one interested in the slow, dense and sludgy.

—Ian Cory

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Purchase Merging In Light via bandcamp here and follow In the Company of Serpents here.

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The title of this post has been edited since its original version. The title was corrected to Merging in Light.

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