Fires in the Distance / Dawn of Ouroboros / Somnent – October 11, 2023 – The Brass Mug, Tampa, FLTuesday, 31st October 2023
Photos by: Brittany Barkasi
There is a nearly uncountable number of bands across all spectrums these days, and even in a position of writing about heavy music for two decades, it can be hard to keep up with all of the hungry and talented bands out there. On this evening at The Brass Mug, those who came out on a weeknight were witness to a trio of such musical acts who are each carving their own different paths in an ever crammed landscape. The special bands we’re speaking of are the co-headliners in Connecticut’s Fires in the Distance and California’s Dawn of Ouroboros, and Florida’s own Somnent. The awesome resident cat at the Brass Mug was ready for a fun evening, and so were we!
Each has been building their discography and refining their craft as they go. Fires in the Distance released an album of the year candidate with the striking melodic death/doom masterwork Air Not Meant for Us, while Dawn of Ouroboros have similarly accomplished something special with the blackened progressive post-metal flavorings of Velvet Incandescence. Both released what is so far the best work of their careers, and managed to team up for a run of shows in the eastern part of the US in support of those releases. As if that couldn’t be any better, melancholic death doomsters Somnent joined for the Tampa and Orlando dates, making this a lineup that’d be foolish to miss out on.
Being lucky enough to have seen Somnent three times within the last year, these guys are certainly encountering a difficult time in shaking us at Dead Rhetoric. We kid, of course, as it’s been a pleasure to see these talented musicians in action, with their brand of somber doom metal being an itch we’re always looking to scratch.
If unfamiliar, Somnent plays a measured, sorrowful brand of melodic death/doom that carries significant weight both lyrically and musically. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/songwriter Giovanni A. Vigliotti – takes up the guitar and vocals live – led the charge with a set that was precise and crushing, with the audience feeling every note deep into their bones. This is a band that will escort one on a journey filled with a bevy of emotions, and that impactfulness was on full display here.
The band recently welcomed a new live guitarist in Julian Lefler into the fold, and this show was his debut. To say he fit right in would be an understatement, bringing an added dynamic to what is an already tight group. Bassist Shane Dohman and drummer Alejandro Acuña combined to bring a pulsating energy that gave Somnent a heft that shook the walls of The Mug, and as a unit, these four are clicking to a high level.
Opening to the dreary and haunting “Silhouette,” Vigliotti’s somber clean vocals and acoustic guitar sounds invoked a disparity that appropriately set the mood. Drawing from their sophomore effort Gardens from Graves, the band presented the Katatonia-like moodiness of “Withered to a Shadow,” while closing with the vinyl exclusive track “Lay These Ghosts to Rest” to leave the crowd thoroughly leveled in what is one of their crunchier pieces. Somnent never disappoint, and one feels like they’re on their way to reaching further heights as their path continues. They’re playing the Doom Heart Fest in Milan alongside Clouds and Remina later in October, and they’ll no doubt leave that audience floored as well.
Dawn of Ouroboros
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Dawn of Ouroboros traveled quite a distance from home on this trek, determined to make their mark on audiences who may be experiencing them live for the first time. That included yours truly, and having been quite impressed with Velvet Incandescence, these ears were itching to hear what they had in store. What the crowd got was a combination of immeasurable intensity and technical proficiency that’s certain to always leave an impression.
Versatile vocalist Chelsea Murphy emits a roar that is perfectly pitched and vicious, while balancing out an incredible range with soothing cleans that add a soothing touch. Her stage presence is also up there with any vocalist going within heavy music, commandingly orchestrating the band’s mix of blackened death metal and post metal intricacy.
Lead guitarist Tony Thomas is quite the fretboard master, as his leads and tremolos tear through the mix, while Ian Baker brings the lead guitar crunch that’s so integral to their sound. Cuts from their latest included the frenetic yet melodic “Testudines,” which is a song that shows the new songwriting heights the band have reached with their second full-length. Frenetic post black metal riffs pulsed through “Rise from Disillusion” with that downtrodden bridge in the middle portion of the song bringing solemn balance, while “Velvet Moon” showed the emotional heart of the band’s music with an elegant artistry, being a personal favorite of this scribe.
The rhythmic front of Ron Bertrand and David Scanlon adds the low end that Dawn of Ouroboros need to drive their songs forward, with “Serpent’s Charm” being a prime example of one of the band’s heavier offerings. Chemistry while playing live is so important, and these Californians have that element in abundance, which is ever important to playing the complex arrangements that constitute their music.
We don’t think anyone left with their neck in pristine condition after Dawn of Ouroboros. Every piece of this band works together in harmony to both enchant and smash their audience, giving a set that none will soon forget. Murphy is seriously up there with Melissa Bonny and Adrienne Cowen for female vocalists making a significant impact and rising to prominence, and it’s a wonderful thing to see so many talented women making their voices heard in metal. One can see this band continuing to rise up the ranks, and we look forward to bearing witness.
Fires in the Distance
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We’ll gladly admit that there’s a slight bit of fanboy energy from yours truly when it comes to Fires in the Distance. In a landscape where it’s so difficult to carve out a truly unique sound, these guys have managed to do just that with a progressive approach to melodic doom metal that’s accented with lush and gorgeous piano work to bring the perfect dosage of atmospheric brilliance. It’s been a damn fine year thus far for new releases, and Air Not Meant for Us keeps maintaining in constant rotation more so than most. Needless to say, the anticipation for their set was palpable.
As soon as the gloriously understated calmness of the distressed piano of “Harbingers” began to open their set, there was no stopping them. That lead guitar still gives goosebumps, and it’s a song we’ve listened to at least 50 times now. Seeing it live blew even our mightily high expectations out of the proverbial water. Guitarist/vocalist Kristian Grimaldi’s monstrous roar is one to behold, with his imposing presence bringing an intoxicating energy that is at the heart of the band’s ethos.
Continuing sequentially with tracks from their latest, “Wisdom of Falling Leaves” smoothly followed with meaty rhythms weaved with biting tremolos and harmonies. Yegor Savonin’s guitar work is sublime, and his and the band’s compositional prowess is to such an esteemed level, that it’s hard to imagine Fires in the Distance being such a relatively young band. The onslaught continued with “Crumbling Pillars of a Tranquil Mind,” emitting an ethereal tonality that reminds of Saturnus, with each nuance performed without flaw.
Their latest addition helming the kit is Jordan Rippe, bringing a presence that fills out the band’s sound both on album and live, pounding the skins with purposefulness. Craig Breitsprecher’s bass and vocal performances cannot be ignored, notably bringing an obvious passion and exuberance to their show that was undeniable.
Finishing up with the closing track “Idiopathic Despair” from their new record was a fitting conclusion, emitting their melancholic melodic death metal side to give a rousing finale to an engrossing evening of top tier music. The audience couldn’t get enough, and the band could have kept going as long as they wanted, with everyone hanging off of every note.
An utterly sensational night courtesy of a trio of acts who each have their own vision, and pulled together to give a show for the ages. Bemusingly, it wasn’t a packed house as it absolutely should have been with bands of this caliber, but for those who came out, the rewards were plentiful. Each band played as if they were in front of thousands; a true testament to the devotion to their crafts and immense professionalism. Each band made sure to stick around and chat with everyone, too, with a humility that matches each person’s esteemed talent.
If presented with the opportunity to catch any of these acts on stage, never hesitate to do so, or else a feeling of regret assuredly will be had. Bands like these don’t come around often, and soaking in their magnificent talents is unquestionably worth any effort to do so.