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Volahn/Shataan/Arizmenda/Kallathon – Desert Dances & Serpent Sermons (Crepusculo Negro, 2015)

Crepusculo Negro is a label that I have been stalking for some years now, and one I am particularly fond of (as was evident in my last year’s list, including both Volahn and Arizmenda’s full-lengths), both due to the quality of its bands, as well as the existence of a unified artistic and spiritual concept among its members, solidified in the Black Twilight Circle. Though not much is clear about the content of this concept, one can be certain of a certain mythological fascination with pre-hispanic Central American civilizations (members appear to be of Mexican-American descend, and strongly influenced by the Mexican legends Xibalba), as the main person behind the Circle has stated. I am quite positive inclined towards black metal becoming occasionally an artistic medium for expression of minorities’ cultural needs, as is the case in this particular case.

In contrast to last year’s rich production, in 2015 the label released only one new album, namely a 4-way split between Volahn, Shataan, Arizmenda and Kallathon, by the descriptive (and quite evocative) name of “Desert Dances & Serpent Sermons”, an album that effortlessly coils its way to the top positions of this year’s black metal production, among sand clouds and black wings.

Volahn kick off the album with the eleven minute opus “Chamalcan”, whose intro and outro can very well disorient; surf-like reverb, a galloping reminiscent of spaghetti-western film music (it was quite a shock upon first listen), before the main part of the track kicks off in well-known (for Volahn fans at least) territory. This means multiple, thin guitar layers, overlapping in an almost ethereal way during the most exhilarating and mystical moments, remaining always in ecstatic motion, sometimes resembling long-winded solos. A comparison with the finest specimens of Les Legions Noires would not be amiss. With a slightly cleaner sound than in their previous releases, a thing suiting well the somewhat travelogue-ish nature of this song (it being a prime guide through the exotic desert concept nature of the release), Volahn once more live up to the high expectations.

Shataan is one of the less well known BTC bands, with only a demo release, 2011’s “War Cry Lament”, to exhibit before this participation. In “Caminando Del Destino / Desert Smoke / Wells Run Dry” we are presented with a 3-part eleven minuter, which introduces us to some “Drawing Down The Moon-” jungle sonicscapes, traversed by a slightly epic acoustic guitar, before it rises itself to a somewhat dissonant, especially vocal-wise, middle part, which nevertheless manages to be highly addictive; the guitars, as in most of the BTC releases, are a feast for sore ears – in this particular occasion they are quite clear, serpentine in quickness of motion. The clean, somewhat punkish vocals may well be dissonant, but they have an innate sense of melody, especially on the last part, which manages to guide them triumphantly through the hazy landscape. All in all a song of mischievous and slightly ironic character, which builds up with time and with repetition.

Arizmenda may well be the darkest and rawest of the label/circle’s bands, a thing widely apparent in last year’s “Stillbirth In The Temple Of Venus”, which was a spectral descent to dungeon schizophrenia. The intro of “Ropeburn Mutilation On The Outskirts Of Life”, the band’s contribution to the split, works well towards supporting the aforementioned Arizmenda characteristic: a children choir performing a somewhat nursery song along slightly discernible chilling keyboards. In the track per se, all known Arizmenda elements can be discerned; ghastly drawn-out vocals, coming behind a hazy curtain of distance; tempo changes sliding from torturous mid-tempo with no apparent direction, to swirling torrential speeds, with guitar riffs (and even the hint of a solo) floating just above the surface of an all-consuming abyss. What differentiates this track from its predecessors is mostly the better production, as well as an essence of atmospheric phantasmagoria, which oddly brought to my mind early Limbonic Art. This may well be the most complex of the split’s four tracks, though it is slightly amiss as far as the conceptual cohesion with the other three is concerned – it is the most traditionally black metal one.

Kallathon, as is also the case with Shataan, is one of the lesser known bands of the circle, boasting just one demo and 2 split releases. Their contribution to the release, “Falling Into The Horizon, Burning Into The Black Twilight” is the longest of the whole bunch, clocking something above 13 minutes. The quite large intro, brings the listener back to the sun-bleached cowboy lands of the first track, steadily building a path towards the main song, which is the most monolithic of the 4, both direction- and riff-wise (though it closes with a solo of excellent taste). Two main tempos pace back and forth, marching mid-tempo giving way to bursts of blastbeats and then resuming with much directness (not succumbing though to inertia). There is large scale echo use in the slightly growling vocals (more towards the clean end of the spectrum), which along with the marching rhythm grace the song with a somewhat epic hue. A worthy closing anthem.

A non-conformist black metal release one could say, both musically (the surf/western parts can drive away black metal purists) and conceptually (as is evident from the somewhat alien to the scene aesthetics of Black Twilight Circle), it also happens to be one of the best albums that have surfaced from this year’s underground vaults. The closing lyrics of “Falling Into The Horizon, Burning Into The Black Twilight” are the most fitting closing line:

Leave the tracks behind as a reflection of our journey
Let only the winds erase our trace but,
let them carry our name
Like the star that burns above, so does our spirit to carry on our song

08 Dec 2015

Tags: black metal   USA   2015
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