Expectations can be a bitch. Archon dropped an excellent debut in 2010. Ruins at Dusk was a heady slab of mountainous, hypnotic doom . It was full of spiring psychedelia and layers of wah-drenched guitars and I hoped for more from their follow-up. Ouroboros Collapsing lands on a distinctly darker note, swapping the larger than life riffing and production for murkier occult-like atmosphere. Ultimately though, this is the same band and the music reflects that. With the revolving cast of musicians whittled down to a solidified lineup, including previous vocalists Chris Dialogue and Rachel Brown, Andrew Jude and co shifted the tone and production to something a bit more stygian. Ouroboros Collapsing is a dark, sprawling black mass of doom and very good album in its own right, despite any predilection for their debut, but it also leaves me wondering if Archon isn’t better suited to their earlier production and style.
From the opening notes of “Worthless” to the withering closure of “Masks”, Archon maintains a staid, meditative approach highlighted by the use of synth and noise. Synths and effects are laid atop the guitars, which now sport a tone comparable to s/t-era Saint Vitus, to great effect, producing a substantially ominous atmosphere. The songs are, for the most part, kept down-tempo with a few up ticks, notably the hobbled black metal pacing in “God’s Eye” and the muddled chaos of “Desert Throne”. Great use is made of the two vocalists, as deep death growls, throaty blackened rasps, and clean vocals slither alongside and atop one another.
The new vintage sounding production is good, but the emphasis on atmosphere comes at a price. The crests seem slower and smaller, and riffs don’t pop like they do on Ruins at Dusk. Of course, they still manage to drop a handful of nasty doom bombs along the way. The way they build tension at the end of “Masks” to a glorious eruption in to a chugging riff that shifts to sustained doom notes as pitched noise drags in the background is marvelous. The psych solo toward the end of “Desert Throne” is excellent, and the interplay between the two vocalists in the middle of “Worthless” is just pure coldblooded darkness and a textbook example of how having multiple dedicated vocalists can enhance a song.
All of this brings me back to my initial statement. Expectations can put a damper on anything, no matter how good it is. A perfectly cooked burger will taste like bitter ash if you’re expecting a turkey club, but unlike ordering at a restaurant where it’s expected you get what you want, musicians are free to take whatever path they choose, regardless of what the audience wants. Is Ouroboros Collapsing a damn fine record? It sure as balls is. Is it really what I wanted to hear from them? No, it isn’t. But you know what? Fuck me. In the end, they produced another good album, one that holds up incredibly well to both their contemporaries in the doom scene and to their debut album. Ruins at Dusk will always be there for me to revisit, and until then I can enjoy the new stuff for what it is. A wonderfully atmospheric album of mammoth doom, the kind of stuff that conjures the scent of dead air drifting through an abandoned chapel, all darkness and omens, invoking all the apocalyptic dread this shithole earth can handle.
[Visit the band's website]