On the inside of the gatefold digi-sleeve that houses Ouroboros Collapsing, the second full-length from NYC-based doom outfit Archon, is inscribed the lines, “Psychic death brings us to our dismay/Inevitable to end this way/Void/Crushes/Magnificent.” These lyrics are the only ones Archon reveals from the album (released on The Path Less Traveled), and I’m comfortable saying they’re fairly emblematic of the band’s irrevocably bleak musical perspective. The five-piece’s doom – doubly vocalized thanks to Rachel Brown and Chris Dialogue – is dark and extreme, touching on death-doom sonically with some of Dialogue’s growls and Brown’s screams and cleaner singing, but not altogether separate either from a post-Electric Wizard stoneralia, given to periods of swirl as in the solo section of “Desert Throne,” the shortest track on Ouroboros Collapsing at a paltry nine minutes. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known Archon guitarist/bassist and founder Andrew Jude for the better part of a decade, have contributed to projects in which he’s also been involved and have watched as he’s solidified Archon’s lineup over the last several years (please note that if I didn’t feel comfortable reviewing it, I wouldn’t), the somewhat nebulous incarnation of the band that brought forth the debut LP, The Ruins at Dusk (review here) having now solidified around him, Brown, Dialogue, guitarist Nikhil Kamineni and drummer Rajah Marcelo. It’s worth noting that the last three – and so 60 percent of Archon’s current lineup – can also be found in the band Alkahest, whose post-sludge bears only a passing resemblance in its extremity to the overarching tragic mood Archon present here. All but Kamineni appeared on the last album as well, among others, and while Ouroboros Collapsing having been recorded at multiple studios across Brooklyn may have led to some shifts in sound from one song to the next, each of the 47-minute outing’s four cuts is long enough to set up its own context, beginning with the 15:03 opener “Worthless” setting the tone of viscous chugging guitar and agonizing echoing spaces. It’s the longest track at just over 15 minutes (immediate points), and begins with low humming ambience from which the bass and guitar gradually emerge amid swirling echoes and a classic ‘90s death-doom drum thud from Marcelo, whose adaptability here proves an asset to the band overall. Past the 2:30 mark, the lumbering sway of the central riff and Brown’s multi-layered melodic vocal kick in, sounding something like Grayceon at their darkest and most massive, albeit rougher in the production and sans cello.
Archon have never been shy about riding a part out, and “Worthless” shows that while the personnel may have shifted, the band’s core affinity for repetition remains the same. When Brown switches to sub-blackened screams, she’s gradually joined by Dialogue, who contributes growls behind and eventually in competition with the verse riffs. With both vocalists going at once, the screams are bound to be a focal point of the song, and there’s a stretch as “Worthless” approaches its halfway point where it feels as though the part is being extended to make room for the lyrics, but an ensuing shift toward more open, atmospheric riffing – Dialogue’s far-back rasp backed by synth from Brown – provides some measure of relative relief from the (purposeful) monotony. The plod continues with Marcelo picking up the drums amid Kamineni’s more active movement toward its end, and though it’s not so much a build as a clear shift, the effect is largely the same. Synths build in prevalence in the doomed cacophony, Jude throws in a few choice bass fills, and a deconstruction plays out there, leaving an amp buzz to fade as the last remaining element before the guitar of “Desert Throne” answers the opener with more immediate riffing. Dialogue has the opening volley in terms of vocals over faster riffing, but it’s Brown’s delivery in the ensuing slower part and swirling bridge that proves more memorable, though the track doesn’t really make its presence felt until the second half, when it opens to what – were it not topped by wrenching growls and screams – might be a ‘90s-style NY gothic synth ambience. The guitar soon gives a solo over the formidable groove, but the mood is set for drama nonetheless. Where “Worthless” launched with a drone, “Desert Throne” caps with about 90 seconds of noise and crashing as the song falls apart back into the malevolent rumble from which the first half of the album emerged. Whatever the particular recording circumstances were for each of these tracks, I don’t know (Jude, Kamineni and Danny Screams are credited with recording, while Jude mixed and David Johnson mastered), but from listening, third track “God’s Eye” (9:45) seems the most cohesive presentation of the various aspects of Archon’s musical personality, taking the push of “Desert Throne” and oppression of “Worthless” and forming them into a substantive and individualized whole. Kamineni’s post-rock tonality seems more present and the insistent initial rhythm captures the listener’s attention so that the blackened progression that follows with Dialogue at the fore of the push is only more like to sweep one into its storm.