It’s easy to be skeptical of the US black metal super-group Twilight. Perhaps the only one of its kind, this ever-changing collective has included key players from Leviathan, Draugar, Xasthur, Nachtmystium, Krieg, Isis, The Atlas Moth, Minsk, and, as of this year, Sonic Youth. As one might imagine, the results have been polarizing among listeners, and with their third (and final) release III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb, Twilight has elected to go all out with a fantastically idiosyncratic record.
Twilight’s 2005 self titled début was heavily indebted to the insular depressiveness of Malefic and Wrest’s respective black metal projects Xasthur and Leviathan, but by the time 2010’s Monument to Time End came out, Malefic had left the band and fresh blood outside the genre was welcomed in Stavros Giannopoulos of The Atlas Moth and Aaron Turner of Isis. That album necessarily absorbed the progressive sludge of their respective bands, and with their newest album III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb, Twilight has almost completely jettisoned the hazy blackness of its début.
This time around, Turner is absent (along with Blake Judd, who had been present on previous releases) and none other than Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth has joined the fold. As other members have injected Twilight with their unique sonic vocabularies, Sonic Youth’s intrepid noise rock hero casts a looming shadow over III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb. Opener “Lungs” conspicuously starts out with his signature pick-scraping feedback freakout, and those familiar with Sonic Youth’s work will immediately recall songs like “100%” and “Drunken Butterfly” off the Dirty album. But, as you might imagine, the tone is markedly different: this is not the ecstatic revelry in noise that the Youth’s harsher undertakings were. Even Sonic Youth’s more opaque material was as gorgeous as it was subtly sinister, but III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb revels completely in dense disquietude.
In stark contrast to the melancholy of the first two records, III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb is savagely percussive. Wrest’s fantastic drumming is pushed right to the forefront of the mix and sports a clear, muscular timbre; every hit of the snare feels like it might break a bone. It lends impossible heft to the midsection of “Seek No Shelter Fevered Ones”, when its sloggy riffs break down for a moment only to be seized by the throat, carried off by a propulsive kick-snare beat and gutted by an acidic cacophony of guitar noise. Moore’s feedback tantrums are a rancid complement to Giannopoulos’ comparatively straightforward riffs, and the overall interplay between the two axemen is as thrilling as it is confused and disjointed. Weirder still is “Oh Wretched Son”, which seems stuck between queasy, Leviathan-esque miserablism and sludgy rock-out riffs. Nonetheless, the messiness provides a far better environment for N. Imperial’s hoarse snarl than the post-metal melancholy of Monument to Time End.
The more dirge-like “Swarming Funeral Mass” accentuates the industrial edge that permeates the album (especially with the addition of clanking percussion that sounds like it was fished out of a junkyard), even if it’s inflected with a note of sorrow at the halfway point with some dissonant clean guitar as N. Imperial screams over it all with palpable venom. Closing track “Below Lights” rocks a perversely groovy industrial jam ornamented with what I presume to be noisy keyboard effects courtesy of Sanford Parker, leaving the album for dead without much closure or fanfare.
Bizarre and disjointed as III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb may be, the album manages to be far and away the project’s best effort – a cryptic, obtuse journey that is light in sense, heavy on experimentation, and heavier in execution than it has any right to be.