Khemmis and In the Company of Serpents: doom metal rocks the Marquis


Jake Tharan, Arapahoe Pinnacle Music Critic

Denver’s underground music scene added another successful show to the books on Sunday, December 20 at the Marquis Theater in LoDo.

The two bands opening the show were In the Company of Serpents and Khemmis, both of which are metal bands hailing from Denver.  Both bands are gaining considerable recognition; the latter of the two even had their debut LP featured in the Pennsylvania-based heavy metal publication, Decibel Magazine.  The favorable howls and horns from the crowd exhibit the underground fan base’s admiration for each band’s music as well.

The first band to perform on the bill was Khemmis – a four piece “doomed rock n’ roll” band as described by the members themselves.  They include strong twin-guitar leads and harmonies in their music, offering listeners a style reminiscent of Thin Lizzy.  The structure of their songs is extremely effective and would undoubtedly be a worthwhile listen for any fan of guitar-driven rock.

Alternating between clean-sung and growled vocals, the band’s two guitarist/vocalists lead the songs into form over the ideal rhythmic pummeling of the bass and drums.  One of the band’s favored songs among fans, “The Bereaved,” exemplifies this with bass drums and toms setting the tempo for the song, only to welcome the fuzzy guitars crashing in.  The savvy songwriting among these musicians is in true form on this track.  

lodo2The distinctive characteristic of Khemmis is the “doomed” part of their musical description.  For the uninitiated, “doom metal” is a sub-genre of metal that employs slow tempos with down tuned, effect-laden guitars as well as a strong, heavy rhythm section.  Khemmis uses these techniques, but the incorporation of dual leads and varying vocal approaches sees a stronger influence from rock n’ roll.

Up next on the stage was In the Company of Serpents, also a doom metal band.  Once again though, we have another group that employs distinct musical characteristics.  What grabs your attention after the band has been on stage for a few minutes is that there is only two men sound checking on stage.  The group features only a drummer and a guitarist/vocalist.  Once they start playing, the noise would have you believe they would at least be a trio.

This grimy duo plays slow to mid-paced songs that include minimalist vocals that are either yelled or growled.  The heavy distortion on the guitar creates a thick, hazy tone to shake the stage setting the overall mood.  Their songs feature sparse passages that only include a dissonant guitar as well as strong repetitive beats or riffs.  This structure is affective in that it gives listeners a good thumping tune to bang their heads to, only at times letting up for a little breathing room to prepare for the next wave of sound.

What we have in these two groups is thick, distorted rock n’ roll fine-tailored for head banging and fist throwing.  The massive low-end heard from their instruments serves as an indicator for one’s neck to move in the motion of whiplash until the music has subsided.  This is not music to throw down to, it is music to become ecstatically lost within the notes.  It is meant to throw your body along with the deliberately plodding tempo of the song.  There are sorrowful melodies and unsettling punches to adore in the live performances of Khemmis and In the Company of Serpents.