Predatory Light – Death and the Twilight Hours Review

Kyle Morgan gets around. The versatile guitar player features in Ash Borer, Superstition, Vanum and, most relevant here, Predatory Light. What stands out about each of the first three projects is the unique sound they bring to their respective sub-genres; whether the cavernous malevolence of The Irrespassable Gate, or the passionate intensity of Ageless Fire, there is a cutting edge to separate them from pretenders. So the somewhat milquetoast first album from Predatory Light, 2016’s Predatory Light, came as a bit of a surprise. Its somewhat formulaic combination of doom and black metal caught Mark Z. on a good day, but even he felt more innovation was required. Six years later, and Predatory Light are back with Death and the Twilight Hours, which meditates on the great plagues of the past, while drawing comparisons to the current pandemic. Not exactly original, but could be compelling if done right. Have Predatory Light cracked the code?

Death and the Twilight Hours consists of four tracks, ranging between 6 and nearly 14 minutes each.  There is clearly an attempt to aim for an epic, expansive sound to capture the grand themes of impending doom and psychological torment lurking everywhere. These ambitions are beautifully realized by first track, “The Three Living and the Three Dead.” The guitars are the heroes, and rather than using fuzzy reverb or feedback to fill the space, we are treated instead to crisp, fulsome string work and thrilling solos. There is an almost tech-death type precision to the tremolos and it is captivating to listen to. Whether slowing things down, as on “To Plead Like Angels,” or going hell-for-leather, as on “Death and the Twilight Hours,” the guitar work is always compelling and captivating. It’s easily the highlight of the album and the mix wisely pushes it to the fore. The superb production provides breathing room for the instrumentation, cleans up some of the edges, but thankfully avoids making things too sterile.

If Death and the Twilight Hours continued in the vein of its grand first track, we would have something very special on our hands. Unfortunately, thereafter, the quality takes a noticeable dip. Part of this is due to the length of the songs. There’s a reason most pop and rock songs notch in under four minutes: the human attention span for the same set of melodies wanders after this point. So keeping things compelling for long is hard. Not every band is Moonsorrow or Yob, and Predatory Light often find themselves meandering to melodic dead-ends, or tying themselves up like a spiky pretzel. The worst offender is “Death and the Twilight Hours,” which lurches from one idea to the next like the AMG staff after the annual Christmas party. You really feel these songs were dragged out when shorter, sharper cuts would play to the band’s strengths.

The other issue is that the melodies become less compelling as the album progresses, which means it all starts to jumble together by the midway point. The criticism leveled at a lot of prog and tech-death is that noodly guitar work trumps catchy tunes, and that could certainly be directed at the middle section of Death and the Twilight Hours. There are simply too many passages where the technical virtuosity cannot disguise the lack of true earworms. Many of these passages are repeated too many times, dulling the impact further. As a result, it’s easy for the listener’s attention to wander. Fortunately, the closer, “To Plead Like Angels,” is tight, fierce and closes things strongly.

Death and the Twilight Hours builds on its predecessor, while repeating many of its mistakes. The guitar work is noteworthy and righteous, unfortunately dulled by the repetitive songwriting and overly long compositions. Metal, as a genre, has always been long-form in its execution, but you wish that Predatory Light would tighten up things just a little. Sometimes, short, sharp bursts are more impactful than epic meanderings (just ask Archspire). Next time, let’s see if Predatory Light can adopt the unofficial motto of AMG: “Less is moar!”

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 11 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Releases Worldwide: May 20th, 2022

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