Words by Jon Stay Puft Garcia
In 2020, Oakland’s Dawn of Ouroboros turned heads in the metal underground with their sprawling debut The Art of Morphology, an amalgamation of various types of extreme metal.
Though the quintet weren’t able to tour or support the album due to global circumstance, it still caught the ears of Prosthetic Records, who added the band to their roster last April.
Now the blackened progressive outfit are ready to take their next step, as they’re set to release their sophomore album, Velvet Incandescence, on April 21.
In addition to the announcement, they offer up to Knotfest an exclusive first taste with “Rise from Dissolution,” a 7-minute epic that rises and falls with the emotive guitar playing of Tony Thomas and Ian Baker, punctuated by Chelsea Murphy’s harsh and hypnotic vocals and touches of backing synth.
The song wastes no time, instantly starting with blast beats, tremolo picked guitars and screamed vocals. A mournful sense of melody underscores the extremity, building to a beautifully serene middle, that gives way to a final, emphatic end. That it hardly feels like seven minutes is a testament to Dawn of Ouroboros’ penchant for songwriting.
About the track, Thomas said, ”We are happy to reveal the first song, 'Rise from Dissolution', from our upcoming album. We hope to have developed on our brand of harsh beauty. Bringing emotionally aggressive genre-bending metal mixed with plenty of dynamics.”
Additionally, Thomas offered some additional insight to the writing and recording process of the band's especially important sophomore effort and how it is indicative of the evolution of the band as a whole.
Watch the Knotfest premiere of “Rise of Dissolution” below, along with an comprehensive conversation with Thomas regarding the release.
Dawn of Ouroboros - Velvet Incandescence due out on April 21 via Prosthetic Records. Pre-orders available here: lnk.to/DawnofOuroboros
Despite Art of Morphology coming out right as the world was shutting down, it still managed to find its place with fans and critics alike. What was it like to basically start the band's career with a global pandemic, and how did you persevere?
Tony Thomas (Guitar / Synths): We originally started the band as just a few friends who had not worked on a project together wanting to have some fun creating something together. So, I can’t say at the time we expected for the album to be received as well as it was. However, it definitely was a bit frustrating to see how well our debut was doing and not be able to support it live in any way for a year and a half. Perseverance as a band was never really an issue, every member is competent with basic audio engineering. So, meeting in person regularly is not really a requirement for us to continue moving forward. And we simply love writing music together and we’d likely be doing this whether anyone was listening or not. Of course, the fact that people are listening is still something we are growing used to, and we’re definitely incredibly thankful to those that enjoy what we do.
When it came time to start work on what would become Velvet Incandescence, what was the approach? Is Dawn of Ouroboros a band that talks about where it wants the music to go, or do you prefer to let it reveal itself in the moment?
Tony: I’m constantly writing new music, and I compose the initial arrangements for the songs. I tend to just go with an improvisation approach to writing, and sort of just record myself jamming until I hear something I like. Once I have what I would consider a full song structure I’ll present it to the rest of the group, from there I think everyone takes that same first impulse approach when coming up with their parts. For example, a lot of the best vocal parts (lyrics included) on the album were fully improvised during the album recording sessions.
Pandemic aside, what do you think was the biggest difference between writing and recording Velvet Incandescence, and Art of Morphology?
Tony: Musically, I would say there is a larger but still subtle jazz influence harmonically. We use chords that have historically been associated with jazz music and I think we’ll continue to build on that by applying it subtly more frequently to the type of metal we create. I also think Velvet Incandescence is overall a higher tempo and more aggressive album. Of course, we still tried to keep the music dynamic, varied, and to maintain a strong emotional thread across the album.
You mention how the band emphasizes melody and feel above technical virtuosity. I still remember the first time I heard that final scream in "Sorrow's Eclipse" and nearly combusted. Similarly, "Rise from Disillusion" sweeps the listener up like a river current, each of its parts flowing into the next. How have you all learned to best develop those moments, and what separates a riff that makes it on the record versus one that narrowly lands in the graveyard?
Tony: Thanks! To hear that our music can affect someone emotionally in that way is the highest praise for us as a band. As mentioned before, our composition method is primarily based on “feel.” So when a section or riff goes to another it's because it just sort of felt like the right thing to do to our ears. As for riffs or songs that don’t make it. I usually weed these out before presenting the arrangements to the rest of the band. This takes a ton of trial and error, there is definitely a rather large graveyard of songs that didn’t make the cut.
Velvet Incandescence continues the blackened, progressive style found on the debut, yet both albums are so much more than that. How do you balance ambitious compositions while still making sure all the parts serve the song?
Tony: We really don’t think about whether a composition will be ambitious or not, we just try to structure them in a way that feels natural and interesting to us. We just try to make music that we like ourselves, put it out there, and hope others will enjoy it as well.
The lyrics are beautifully written, yet still have so much room for interpretation by the listener. Where do you find inspiration for them and why were you compelled by album's themes of healing and home?
Tony: Chelsea uses a lot of her personal experiences to inspire her lyrics, with a lot of the highly personal sections being improvised during the recording sessions and related to various emotions she may have been feeling at that moment.. Of course, this is not always the case. Some of the lyrics are inspired by books she has read, nature, or perhaps a variation on one of her own short stories she writes.
What, if anything, do you want listeners to take away from Velvet Incandescence?
Tony: Well, most importantly we hope that people enjoy what we’ve created. But we also hope that listeners can feel an emotional connection to what we are doing and might continue to come back for another listen to experience how it may have affected them again.