Ever get a hankering for an easy listening version of Agalloch with gothic tinged Enya-style vocals? Well, here it is. Worm Ouroboros is a strange entity fusing gothic, doom, post rock and jazz into modern chamber music for the depressed masses. Come the Thaw is their sophomore release and, like their debut, offers a series of lengthy movements graced with the ethereal voices of Lorraine Rath and Jessica Way. This time out, they’re aided by the drumming of Aesop Dekker (Agalloch, Ludicra). I would venture to say this is a form of doom, but only as far as the feel of the album, not due to the presence of big, tooth-loosening riffs. Come the Thaw approaches doom via dark, melancholy soundscapes, saturated with beautifully haunting vocals and mostly soft strummed guitars. Their sound is similar at times to the works of Estatic Fear, The Eden House and Dyonisis, but they have their own unique style. There’s scarcely a note birthed in anger to be found anywhere, and as such, this isn’t exactly a metal album in the traditional sense. It is however, an impressive, emotional experience, with an effectively forlorn quality. While it’s far from aggressive or edgy, it’s plenty engaging.
As opener “Ruined Ground” glides out, the angelic vocals of Way and Rath make an immediate impression, and the interesting ways their voices weave and intertwine are bound to fascinate. They sound ghost-like and gorgeous. Behind them, the music is VERY stripped down and unobtrusive. The drumming is mostly slow and soft and the guitars are muted and non-confrontational as they gently trill away. That isn’t to say the music isn’t interesting and thoughtful. It’s both, and when coupled with the vocals, it has a strong hypnotic effect (and will frequently remind of Agalloch at their most pensive and reserved). While the song is LONG (over ten minutes), it flows along like a newly thawed stream. The rest of Come the Thaw follows in the same mold of lengthy set pieces with floating, heavenly vocals, backed by low-key arrangements. “Further Out” features achingly poignant vocals and some very graceful fretwork. On “Release Your Days,” there’s scarcely any background music at all, with the bewitching, siren-like voices carrying the song. “When We Are Gold” is the standout, with a slightly more up-tempo delivery and a great doomy drone segment beginning at 4:55, laced with emotional guitar lines. The heaviest track by far is “Withered,” which incorporates doom riffs with a While Heaven Wept flavor and a more urgent feeling.
As you may have gathered by now, Come the Thaw is all about the vocal harmonies of Rath and Way. At times, it almost seems as if the accompanying music is an afterthought, though it’s well done. Way’s guitar-work is often quite beautiful and manages to sooth and engage at the same time. Rath’s bass is restrained but interesting (especially on “When We Are Gold”). Mr. Dekker uses the opportunity to experiment with softer drumming than his norm. He flirts with jazz-style percussion and supplies a lively foundation, even on the most languid numbers. This album is a bit of a paradox musically, in that there’s so little going on at times, but it somehow feels very musical and accomplished, albeit in a sleepy way.
The biggest issue many will have with Come the Thaw, is how mellow, passive and unhurried the style is. This is definitely not an album to turn to when you need energy, aggression or rage. This is calming, introspective, space-out music, and the average metal fan may not know what to make of it. Another hurdle is the tendency for the songs to run together and sound a bit samey. There aren’t conventional song structures with defined choruses. Instead, things just tend to float along. While it works, I can see it boring ADD people after a few songs.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Come the Thaw. It’s a grower and requires patience to uncover the little details within each song, but it’s worth the effort. The vocals are more enchanting than anything I’ve heard in a long time, and the doomy vibe ends up creating something akin to Enya performing ancient funeral hymns. There has to be a market for that, right?