Black Twilight Circle – Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons Review

Black Twilight Circle - Desert Dances and Serpent SermonsIn 2015 I had the pleasure of opening up the New Year with a review of Volahn’s Aq’ab’al; a black metal album filled with so much cultural content (Mayan in this case) that it would have made Quorton’s head spin. Just over a year later I am presented with another opportunity to review a new release from Volahn’s small record label, Crepúsculo Negro—aka Black Twilight Circle—though this new album was officially released mid-2015. What makes this label so unique is the sharing that occurs between all members of this tight-knit group of So-Cal black metallers. Bands like Arizmenda and Volahn consist of sole members that (in a variety of instrumental combinations) make up other roster bands like Axemen, Shataan, Kallathon, and Blue Hummingbird of the Left. Black Twilight Circle is a special brotherhood of musicians whose purpose is to create US black metal for the world… and release it on cassette.

Almost a decade in existence, Black Twilight Circle have released a respectable collection of individual albums, splits, dream-team collaboration pieces, and BTC releases that showcase a song from each member of its roster. The latter occurred first in 2009 with Worship Black Twilight—a six-track effort made up of single-song contributions from Volahn, Arizmenda, Kallathon, Axeman, Kuxan Suum, and Ashdautas. Worship Black Twilight highlighted the talents of these individual black metal bands that flowed like an album rather than a “best of” collection. And now BTC are back with another (and even better) collection of songs. This time from Volahn, Arizmenda, Kallathon, and Shataan.

Volahn’s Chamalcan” gets the Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons started with some guitar work taken straight from the staffs of Ghoultown. It’ll catch you off-guard but it sets a perfect mood for this journey into BTC’s “Western Black Metal” sound. After the introduction, Volahn dumps a shit-load of crushing, culturally-themed black metal in your lap; restraining it with a variety of pace-changes and subtle melodic elements. It’s a slick opener and one of my favorite Volahn pieces to date. Shataan’s three-part follow-up is a special treat to the BTC enthusiasts—being that this band has only released a single demo. Consisting of Shataan (vocals/guitars/flute), Volahn (bass), and Arizmenda’s Murdunbad (drums), the band opens “Caminando del Destino” with calming flutes, ghostly clean vocals, and a spontaneous guitar and drum delivery. It’s soothing and simply beautiful. The first-part morphs into the second and “Desert Smoke” fills the middle portion of this long tracks with some kickass riffs and black-metal nastiness. To close this epic out, “Wells Run Dry” sends the listener careening through an atmosphere of guitars, desperate vocals, drums, and flutes before finishing with some much needed head-banging relief. This three-part piece is by far my favorite of the album.

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Arizmenda opens “Ropeburn Mutilation on the Outskirts of Life” with a creepy children’s chorus that gives way to some old-school Darkthrone tremolos and desperate black-metal melodies taken straight from the glory days of Dissection and Gorgoroth. It’s all been done before but it works well, mixing up the experimentation of the other three tracks. Kallathon’s closer, “Falling into the Horizon, Burning into the Black Twilight” is not only a mouthful of a title but it is also the longest track on the album. For five minutes, its clean guitars and lush bass build this giant up to more Darkthrone riffage and a spot-on Nocturno Culto vocal delivery. This rollercoaster flies around aggressive turns, along gentle straight-aways, and ascending steep hills with captivating views.

Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons is a neat representation of the musicianship behind the Black Twilight Circle. And though each song averages a ten-minute runtime, the four-track length of the album makes for easy repeat listens. However, the first two tracks are clearly the strongest, while Arizmenda’s track is mostly standard fare black metal and Kallathon’s song could benefit from some editing. Production-wise, Shataan’s track scores the highest in dynamics, leaving the other three tracks quite compressed in comparison. Being from the same neck of the woods as Black Twilight Circle, I can tell you I’ve not heard much around these parts worth mentioning. That is, until now.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Crepúsculo Negro

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