Band: Worm Ouroboros
Album: What Graceless Dawn (2016)
Genre: dark ambient, doom
Where to buy: Bandcamp
Bay area-based Worm Ouroboros describe their music as “a creeping, dark landscape full of murky dreams and emotions,” which turns out to be an accurate summation of their 2016 release, What Graceless Dawn. In just over an hour, this album paints otherworldly, alien atmospheres with its haunting movements and inexorable crescendos. Lorraine Rath and Jessica Way supply the bass, guitar, and vocals. Their voices wail like cries at a funeral, sometimes breathy and hollow, sometimes full and accusatory. The tracks are less songs and more impressionistic aural landscapes: imagine flying through a thick fog and occasionally glimpsing bare ground, strange flora, and the odd abandonded and ruined settlement. The vocals blow through a poetic atmosphere of sympathy, regret, hope and hopelessness. This is slow and deliberate work; there are only six tracks on the whole album, all of them lengthy (nine to fourteen minutes). This album draws out long and beautifully.
What Graceless Dawn is itself structured like a day on a rotating planet. The first track, “Day,” builds a long and slow introduction with bird-like whistles and a drone like a growing wind, joined by Rath and Way singing lyrics by William Blake. (Maybe the songs are less impressionistic and more romantic, then.) Not until seven minutes into the track do all the instruments let loose. It is here that you first notice what they’ve been doing: subtly building a melody that crescendoes so satisfyingly you didn’t even realize you wanted it until it was right in front of you. This is a great trick. By the time the planet finishes its revolution and “Night” falls, Worm Ouroboros has repeated this trick several times without it getting old.
It’s easy to get lost in this album. Instead of verses and choruses and bridges and breakdowns, the songs wander in careful construction. But there are almost no landmarks or handholds and to enjoy the tracks requires a listener to surrender to a certain amount of uncertainty. Sometimes a regular drumbeat will appear for a while, only to change tempo and meter before too long and fade into ambience, where the melodies comfortably reside. This makes the handful of heavy moments all the heavier. I found myself headbanging along as the music crested. I’ll make it a point to catch Worm Ouroboros’s next show, because hearing these tracks live, loud and in a dark room, must be as close to floating on a dark sea as you can get without getting wet.