The fourth album from In the Company of Serpents’ marks a number of changes compared to their prior releases. The Denver group is no longer operating as a duo, not only recruiting bassist/lap steel guitarist Ben Pitts as a full member but also featuring several guest performers. Lux’s forty-four-minute runtime is also longer than the albums before it, and the incorporation of a conceptual narrative further reinforces a heightened sense of scope.
While Lux’s style is essentially a continuation of the Americana-tinged sludge seen on 2017’s Ain-Soph Aur, its execution comes with a great deal of development. The production stands in stark contrast to the often-suffocating grime of past efforts, presenting a mix that gives extra weight and clarity to the open western aesthetic. The tones are fuller, the vocals are heftier, and the guitar-bass interplay allows for layering that serves the atmosphere while sustaining their groove-oriented approach.
Going along with that, the band’s use of light/dark contrasts and spiritual lyrical theming results in splendidly dynamic songs. “The Fool’s Journey” splendidly establishes this duality from the get-go as its ten-minute run cycles through chunky grooves, thundering chords, and a speedy climax. The slinky basslines and harsh vocal tradeoffs on “Scales of Maat” push things to the darkest point while “Lightchild” rides a lurching riff set somewhere between Neurosis and Yob.
But the album’s strongest moments come from its most melodic sequences. “The Chasm at the Mouth of the All” and the closing “Prima Materia” make the most of those western elements, invoking images of open prairies with their twangy acoustic strums and slide guitar, building percussion, and gravelly speak-singing that channels Tom Waits as much as Scott Kelly. Part of me wishes that the viola d’amore was used on more songs than just the minute-long interludes, but these sequences do round things out quite nicely.
At the end of the day, Lux is easily the strongest album that In the Company of Serpents has released so far. While this brand of Americana sludge has been done before, the memorable songwriting and stirring dynamics make for an engaging listen. The overall length is also nicely balanced, allowing for a volley of climaxes while still encouraging replay value. Fans of such Colorado metal fixtures as Cobalt, Wayfarer, and Khemmis are sure to welcome this as another hearty staple.
“Scales of Maat”
“The Chasm at the Mouth of All”