Ouroboros – Glorification of a Myth – 3.5/5
It was four years ago that my still untrained metal ears perked up to the unsigned debut EP of Dred's “A Path To Extinction,” delivering one of my first doses of Tech Death with a good dollop of thrash energy thrown in for good measure. With a name change two years in, this quintet from the land down under still find themselves without a label but in true DIY style set to work recording everything themselves and emerge triumphant with 54 minutes of madness that shows no sign that they never had the financial backing of better known bands behind them. But I must confess this album was something of a hard sell for me; as I entered it was to the re-recorded tracks from their EP that I initially found myself drawn towards, and I was struck by the sterility of it all.
Too much time is spent with palm muted riffs that whilst complex, are hidden in the back and barely heard over the combination of drums and vocals, just begging for a rhythmic section left ringing to complement it all. Every movement is staccato and left well defined, notes crisply and abruptly cut with expert precision, both a testament to their ability at performing – particularly given the fact it was all self produced – but lacking a raw edge to drive the furious aggression strived for. The drums fare little better with everything feeling just a touch to mechanical; the cymbals crash with a sense of indifference and the kick drum too often feels relegated to metronome duties rather than adding the deep bombastic bang the music deserves, and those without the ability to manually adjust the bass output will be really missing out as a result.
There is a reason for all this precision though, and as you continue to listen to their passages of instrumental intensity – the intro to 'Sea To Summit' or the solo mid-way through 'Lashing of the Flames' for example – you realise that the twin guitars here are capable of some of the most awe inspiring passages of melodic brutality, an oxymoron by anyone's standards. And yet this tendency to add neo-classical flourishes and slower passages succeeds in doing just that; even when the 'shredding' kicks in it feels about as far removed from the Exodus train of thought as you can imagine, still coming across as so much more than a chaotic collection of notes. The vocals have a deep guttural tone reminiscent of death metal titans "Behemoth" that makes any lyrics impossible to hear, which might be a shame as certainly the name Ouroboros alludes to the ancient Egyptian symbol of a serpent eating itself and has some intriguing implications.
But make no mistake, this is an album that is all about the guitars; the other instruments – and the vocals are just another instrument in their repertoire here – are used to maintain the rhythm and the atmosphere so the guitars can drive the tracks forward. It's just missing that hidden factor that separates it from the best in the genre, and distancing themselves from the Gothenburg tendency of writing guitar riffs with notes in between palm muted sections; allowing the guitars to get a bit of grit under their collective fingernails whilst retaining their clarity would surely see them rise as the new big names of the Tech Death scene. So set the bass to overdrive, turn the volume up to eleven, and lose yourself to one of the most promising debut releases of the year.
Highlights: Lashing of the Flames, Sea To Summit, Dissolve