Equal parts enlightening and embarrassing is when a band tells you something about yourself that you should've already known. Shit, I know what I like. At least I thought I did. I don't wanna get into a discussion on splitting hairs, but when a band uses your first listen to carve "Seth Loves So-And-So" into every picnic table in town, you tend to end up looking like an asshole to all your friends.
Great bands aren't afraid to immerse the riff in a simmering pan of fuzz, though there always exists the threat of drowning the listener in distortion. Denver's In the Company of Serpents exploit themselves and find a sludge-doom groove that's electric, misanthropic, and perfectly-timed. Their five-track, self-titled debut isn't just your Sunday Sludge. It's likely to linger and tug at your balls all week.
The band's driving force is Grant Netzorg, a self-proclaimed scratchy-throat, brown-note beer drinker. When he repeats "abandon all hope, ye who enter here" on Canto III Inferno, you can't help but think he's dead-wrong. I'm anxious for more of the band's clammy sludge, meaning I'll lock up in my attic, clutch my five-track cassette, and choke on the dust kicked up with every nod and hope-laden fist pump.
I've always appreciated a band who opens with a track entitled Intro. It's like saying "here... this is what we sound like." Not that I need it, but it tells me which direction the band plans on taking. ITCOS's Intro is grinding guitar sandpaper, entering a sludge groove and punishing eardrums with crunchy, metronomic riffs and pummeling puddle-piss skin-work. If the rest of the album sounds like this, we're gonna get along amazingly.
Leading straight into the slow dirge of Dirtnap, the down-tuned plod melds with Netzorg's withdrawn but enticing vocals. Burying licks under a canvas of fog has the track feeling like a stumble through a misty hamlet, buzzing and grinding like your old man's dusty table saw that he's too drunk to use. What's surprising for this sludge, however, is its groove. The palpable, nod-inducing rhythm is what sets apart ITCOS from their sludge-doom contemporaries. Under an electric blanket, the band's sludgy plod melts into a stoner groove, resulting in some pretty cool sounds.
Immolation is rife with slow doom riffs that echo your dad's favorite records from the 70's. Cave-dwelling vocals and splicing sludge make hairs stand on end, while the Sabbath and Vitus influences are greatly honored. We enter a steady, uptempo cruise of moss and exhaust that, short-lived as it may be, breaks expectation and demonstrates the band's proficiency. The plod returns, and you'll be lovingly lost once again. This track carries us out on an ogre's back without giving a shit that our skulls are slamming into hanging branches.
Screeching fuzz predates the slow, patient, and oozing haze of Malice. Unrelenting, the hanging vines smack your face as you plug your tin boat through the stickiest of bogs. The pace quickens, however, and the gradual flow gives way to an utter rampage of riffage and JJ Anselmi's cymbal-destruction. Netzorg's drowning pain is shaved into the track's fuzz as we tie in to the aforementioned Canto III Inferno. Loads of buzz are struck with patient, doom-riddled hover on this 9 minute-plus rollick. The track is steady, pauses are placed perfectly, and the crushing riffs arrive one after another. The rolls and ticks combine to craft an awesome closer, ultimately signaling more promise than despair.
Tomorrow morning, I'm gonna wake up and drink some coffee. I'm gonna go to work and enmesh myself in the mindless drone of data-entry and formulaic casework. And I'm really gonna miss In the Company of Serpents. I'm gonna sit at my desk, wait for their call, and watch the clock wondering if they're playing for some other fan somewhere else. I'll pick up the phone, dial the first nine digits, and ultimately terminate the operation in an attempt to avoid sounding desperate. But when the sludge is this good, you tend to get a little clingy.