Dawn of Ouroboros – Velvet Incandescence Review

Sometimes it takes a village to write a review. In this case it took my aquatic neighbor to the west, Dolphin Whisperer, asking what everyone thought of the new Dawn of Ouroboros and then Steel politely reminding me that my review of it was well overdue. I confess I was procrastinating because I was unsure how to feel about it. Once Steel made it clear that my maggot-filled bowl of gruel would soon just be the maggot part, I listened with renewed focus. Just to be sure I was properly motivated, Dr. Grier threatened to put a swarm of Arizona bull snakes in the burlap sack I cry myself to sleep in every night. As I revisited Velvet Incandescence, Dolphin Boy shot down every comparison and observation I made about it. Soon the sponge known as Kenstrocity joined the chiding, and I was more lost than ever. Dawn of Ouroboros is a project started by Botanist and Cailleach Calling guitarist Tony Thomas and Cailleach Calling vocalist Chelsea Murphy. They play a wild, proggy mix of blackgaze, death and atmo-metal with sprinkles of new age and post-hardcore along the way. It was time to find out: was Velvet Incandescence the effective mix of wordy genres that Dolphin made it out to be or the dawn of over-boringness I first experienced?

Velvet Incandescence has a lot going on. Often that’s a compelling draw but here it feels like a band trying to please everyone while probably not pleasing many. Album opener “Healing Grounds” kicks off with some Beach Boys-type harmonizing before launching into post-rock mode with distorted guitars and shrieking vocals tempered by calming synth. From there, the tremolo riffs and blast beats commence, and we’re in familiar territory. The song shifts between moments of blackened haze and melodic guitar lines and back again. It sets the stage for the following 35 minutes where you never quite know what you’re going to get.

Initially, I compared Dawn of Ouroboros to Deafheaven (a band you can’t mention around the sump without being called names that would make Kerry King blush) but I realize Svalbard is perhaps a more accurate comparison. The music has a more post-hardcore vibe, and the female vocals have similar qualities. Admission aside, I will stand by my claim that the song “Velvet Moon” could easily have been on Ordinary Corrupt Human Love and “Levitating Pacifics” could have been its B side. But there’s still plenty more to unpack – the diso-death banger “Cephalopodic Void” curiously breaks into an anime-sounding interlude and multiple Enya-like passages like the intro to “Castigation” dare me to call the album Velveeta Incandescence. I usually don’t mind this type of daring genre mixing but here it feels forced and a tad pretentious.

I imagine Dawn of Ouroboros going for a big prog record like those the AMG staff salivated over last year. Unfortunately, Velvet Incandescence doesn’t stack up with An Abstract Illusion’s Woe and Disillusion’s Ayam. It lacks the narrative thread and cohesion that make those albums such a pleasure to dive into. Many people complained at our Metallica rodeo that 72 Seasons sounded like an A.I. version of the band. I’d argue that Dawn of Ouroboros suffers from a similar affliction. Velvet Incandescence could be the result of someone asking ChatGPT to write a blackgaze record that blended the smoothest of Alcest with the fieriest of Harakiri for the Sky. Even the album’s title and cover artwork reek of A.I. Having never heard this band before, I checked out their previous release from 2020, The Art of Morphology. I found that it didn’t suffer from many of the complaints I have about Velvet Incandescence. It’s rawer but also more cohesive, meditative and complete. I suspect the band wanted to up the ante with their sophomore release but couldn’t quite get the winning cards on the table.

Velvet Incandescence has grown on me some as it becomes more familiar and maybe that’s its strength. Its incoherence becomes more compelling as you give it time. Still, too many generic genre tropes keep me from feeling overly excited about it. Dawn of Ouroboros has the parts and the tools but lacked the vision to set itself apart from the post-black pack here. It’s a rare album where I don’t have favorite songs but favorite parts of songs. There are some brilliant melodies and some interesting choices among the rabble. I’m not ready to write them off yet and I trust the village will hold me accountable.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: dawnofouroboros.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/dawnofouroboros
Releases Worldwide: April 21st, 2023

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