worm-ouroboros_what-graceless-dawnThe San Francisco music scene is nothing if not creative. With oddball acts like Hammers of Misfortune, Vhöl and Slough Feg calling the area home, creativity is in abundant supply. Worm Ouroboros is yet another off-kilter act providing local color to the Bay Area, lesser known but no less interesting. The brain-trust of Lorraine Rath and Jessica Way, the band’s unique blend of dark ambient goth-rock, doom and neo-folk is as interesting as it is offbeat. With well-travelled drummer Aesop Dekker (Vhöl, ex-Agalloch, ex-Ludicra) on board, they released two atmospheric platters full of introspective trance-groove, with 2012s Come the Thaw really impressing yours truly. It’s taken them some time to produce new material, but What Graceless Dawn picks up right where Come the Thaw left off and delivers more of their mood-drenched, darkly ethereal compositions. Minimalist, stark, dream-like and beautiful, this is the near-perfect companion piece to Esben and the Witch‘s Older Terrors opus, and will appeal to the same demographic. It isn’t metal in the truest sense, but it’s doomy and dark to be sure.

The album opens softly with the bewitching vocals of Rath and Way set against soft ambient effects and minimalist instrumentation. Dekker, regarded as one of the hardest hitting drummers in the business, scarcely upbraids the skins with his nuanced playing and all seems to drift in a dreamy fog for the first seven minutes before erupting into the kind of post-metal trilling Agalloch once specialized in. I’d hesitate to say it gets heavy, but it feels that way after such a long, lullaby-induced fugue state. It’s a well-executed song, but a bit thin on actual music for the listener to cling to in the sea of ambient emptiness.

“Broken Moments” is much more what I’ve come to expect from Worm Ouroboros, situating itself someplace between goth-wave acts like The Eden House and Dyonisis and defunct melancholy doomers, The Third and the Mortal. It’s achingly beautiful in its bare bones delivery, with the haunting vocals of Rath and Way mainlining sadness right into your veins. The guitar is much more present here, offering reverb-heavy goth rock riffs and forlorn harmonies to go with the heartbreaking choir. Fortunately the rest of What Graceless Dawn is more in line with this song, with “Suffering Tree” nailing the bleak goth-landscapes of 80s acts like Fields of Nephilim, while “Ribbon of Shadow” dials up the urgency and grit ever so slightly (after 8 minutes or so) and introduces vaguely ominous post-metal riffs, arriving at what I might call “sleepy-time doom.”

Overall the album has a lovely ebb and flow but there are issues. I totally understand what the band is going for with their unhurried compositional style and more often than not their long-form writing results in hypnotic set pieces, but some of these songs are just too long-winded. What “Day” attempts musically doesn’t justify its nine-minute length, and though “Ribbon of Shadow” really pops once it gets going, it takes far too long to get to the get going place. Sound-wise things are quite lush and vibrant. The vocals aren’t over-prominent and float nicely in the mix, as do the various shades of guitar strumming. Dekker doesn’t get to do a whole hell of a lot drum-wise but his kit sounds warm and organic.

worm-ouroboros_2016

The Worm Ouroboros template is built around the vocal melodies and harmonies of Rath and Way and they never fail to enchant and beguile as their voices entwine and weave together. My only complaint is I’d like to hear more diversity in their delivery. There’s never a harsh edge or bitter tone to their angelic voices, and if they spit some venom occasionally it would have quite an impact. Jessica Way’s guitar-work is often perfect for the music, ranging from goth-standard strumming to darker, edgier riffing. Like the vocals though, the guitar never cuts loose and at its most aggressive it’s still far from what we think of as “heavy.” I know that’s not what they’re about, but again, a little diversity can make a big difference. As mentioned above, Dekker doesn’t get to shine much on such laid-back songs, but he does give the music a solid backbone and when he gets a chance, the classic pop in his playing can still be heard.

What Graceless Dawn is another dark and elegant musical landscape, full of melancholy and romantic longing. It might not be the right concoction for the average metal fan, but it’s a poignant and emotional album with a lot to offer the patient listener. It will transport you to another place if you let it, and that alone makes it worth the price.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Profound Lore
Websites: wormouroboros.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/WormOuroboros
Releases Worldwide: December 2nd, 2016

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  • Reese Burns

    Can (almost) always trust Profound Lore to put out quality material.

    • Sickjess

      That “almost” is really important.

      • Reese Burns

        There was that godawful hardcore album they released a while ago that scored a 0.5 here. Other than that, most PL releases are pretty well received around here. Except Bell Witch’s latest. It got a 2.0 when it shoulda got a 4.5!

        • Let it go, man!

          • Reese Burns

            Alright, alright! I’ll go to my safe space…

        • El_Cuervo

          yawn

          • Reese Burns

            Ouch

        • AndySynn

          It did? Damn. I picked that out as one of my “Critical Top 10” albums of 2015. Seemed like an absolute no-brainer to me.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    It’s because SF is so crowded trying to get anywhere is almost impossible. Less stressful to just stay home and jam.

    • Crowded? You should spend some time in NYC.

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Well, furthest East I’ve ever been is New Orleans, so, yeah, I have no idea about NY. Get some good bands from there, too, though…

        • brklyner

          Not quite the number of black metal bands per capita that Iceland boasts, but we’re doing ok.

    • herrschobel

      it think it´s more that SF has been overrun by hi tech idiots and is so overpriced by now that all you can do is to stay home and jam !

  • Scourge

    My only complaint about this album is that there’s no vinyl edition. I preordered the CD a week ago, but the warmth of the production and comparatively huge dynamic range the CD already has would sound great on vinyl. On first listen I found this to be a great companion to Subrosa and Eight Bells. The vocals remind me of Filigree and Shadow era This Mortal Coil and Kate Bush. Good stuff.

    • Yep, a vinyl mix of this would be amazing.

    • And notice that Subrosa was DR4 while this was DR10 and yet it doesn’t loose an ounce of warmth or fuzziness.

      • Scourge

        Seriously. I actually have no idea how Subrosa’s engineer was even able to squash that master to a DR 4; that must have taken some real time and intent… Still love that album though…

        • So do I. Best release thus far. But the production doesn’t really do it justice IMO.

  • basenjibrian

    Big big fan of this trio! (Duo w/drummer?)

  • El_Cuervo

    Agallloch?

  • Namedropping (especially) Fields of the Nephilim and The Third and the Mortal should make me interested in this album, but I fear that I have had my dose of dark-dreamy music for this year with Esben and the Witch. In addition, based on your criticism this album might miss a darker edge, and sounds a bit monotonous.

  • Treble Yell

    The embedded track is really nice, but I’m not sure if an entire album of ethereal, dreamy music would keep me engaged.

  • Innit Bartender

    Seems this could a companion of 40 Watts Sun…

  • Noobhammer

    I remember catching these guys with Agalloch a few years back, and really digging what I heard. Their live shows do more for their music than the studio work I feel.