Come the Thaw
posted on 3/2012 By:
San Francisco's Worm Ouroboros plays a unique style of modern dark wave music that appeals to a wide spectrum of listeners intent on favoring the bleaker side of emotional expression. And much like their self-titled 2009 debut, the band's latest offering manages to handily stagger the line between dreamy indulgence and outright misery.
The crescendoing clamor that painted the edges 2.5 years ago is mostly gone, so Come the Thaw expresses a less 'metal' version of the band that slides the musical marker a few degrees further away from The Gault and closer toward the fluid ambience of, say, Fovea Hex. In short, precedence is undoubtedly given to generally gentle play and the coiled honeyed voices of Jessica Way (Barren Harvest, ex-World Eater) and Lorraine Rath (ex-Amber Asylum & The Gault), so those expecting "Riverbed or Winter Pt. 2" (or a bend towards something even rowdier) will need to soften their temperament for 2012.
Each tune gives ample opportunity for the listener to let go of reality and float through the window to whatever dreamy, fantastical realm a brain is comfortable enough to muster that involves beautiful sirens coaxing travelers to the wildwood. If the sound of that doesn't turn your crank, 1) Worm Ouroboros ain't for you, and 2) your ears must be loose, because I'd probably hand a baby over to al-Qaeda to be the person fortunate enough to lay his weary head next to either of these ladies so capable of such sweet lullabies. Evidence is abundant, but the sparse drift of tunes like "Further Out," the trippy "Release Your Days" and the album's leveling closer, "Penumbra," all make for perfect companions to night-time etherealities fit to melt away the harshness of life's daily grind.
But unlike particularly ambient troupes such as the aforementioned Fovea Hex, or more acoustically driven mopes like Grouper, or even the parallel kinship to the cello/violin dominated Amber Asylum, the model employed by Worm Ouroboros is rock at its crux, as the album's ambient tones are offset by ample stretches of moody guitar/drum/bass-governed dark wave that keeps the band within whiffing distance of neofolk-slanted metal. Aesop Dekker (Agalloch, ex-Ludicra) replaces Justin Green behind the kit and does a remarkable job of knowing just the precise moment when a little heft is needed, and he strengthens much of the quieter passages with sparse but deft trimming that's equally enhanced by the additional attention given to Lorraine Rath's pleasant, meandering bass. But it's Jessica Way's seemingly effortless ability to lift dejected notes from her guitar that delivers the killing blow. 'Crestfallen' is the word that immediately springs to mind, but any descriptor that inspires one to zero in on cloudy reflection would equally suffice. The three-minute mark of the epic opener "Ruined Ground" destroys me, as does the overcast gloom tossed over the the whole of "Further Out," but the one-two punch of the album's loudest forays, "When We Are Gold" and the excellent "Withered," offer up the sort of despairing fretwork capable of cutting straight to the bone during their cruelest peaks.
It takes a heavy foot on the shovel to dig up anything suitable to pick apart. I suppose some might miss the stronger semblance of heaviness/noisiness that peppered the debut, but I'd say Come the Thaw more than makes up for it in emotional mass. If pressed, I'd say there are a couple brief moments where the final mix/mastering job favors the bass too strongly during a particularly wailing guitar segment, but that's just a bit of nit-picking over approximately 45 seconds of the full 50-minute Thaw.
The bottom line is this: Worm Ouroboros creates heavy music without being outwardly 'heavy,' and they exhibit an elegant, delicate touch without being exceedingly frail as well. Come the Thaw further perpetuates this fact, and whether or not you should jump at the chance to buy this record depends precisely on how you feel about quietly brooding over the gloomy side of life with the perfect companion notes lifting from your speakers. Soothing, sparse and suitably defeating, Come the Thaw is beautiful music that's unquestionably worthy of hearing, pure and simple.
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