Saturday, March 20, 2010


Completely amazing sophomore album from black metal supergroup Twilight. Gone are Malefic (Xasthur) and Hidolf (Draugar); enlisted into the fold are Aaron Turner (Isis), Sanford Parker (Minsk), Stavros Giannopolous (the Atlas Moth) and Robe Lowe (Lichens) alongside Blake Judd, Wrest and Imperial. The last Twilight album, while interesting and even commendable at times, stank of opportunism and hokiness, as likely to be written off as some sort of underground culture joke as the unified authorship of an interesting sound experiment. "Monument to Time End," however, is easily one of the best, most beautifully composed and enchanting black metal albums i've heard in years.
I'm amazed that this is as good as it is. The debut was very much a mixed bag; made up of five mostly solitary black metal writers who created incredibly signature sounds within their respective groups, there was never really a feeling of anything meshing or coming together on the album. It was easy to listen to any random track and say, "Oh, Wrest wrote this one" or "totally Xasthur" or "That's a Nachtmystium riff." It wasn't bad, there just wasn't any sort of group identity or dynamic to what Twilight were doing. ON this outing, however, the rules have been completely rewritten. This sounds like a band, and a fucking great one at that. The only track that bears an obvious stamp is "Red Fields" which bears the compositional mark of Wrest so blatantly that it might have been a leftover Leviathan song. Otherwise it's uncharted territory, pushing the idea of black metal into whole other realms of beauty. I could probably write 20 pages on the awesome riffs crammed into these eight songs-they're all different and mindbending while retaining enough black metal classicism to encourage massive bouts of whiplashing headbanging-but they're also extremely mature with regard to texture and depth. Some of this stuff is achingly gorgeous. Three minutes into the first track and you're assaulted with one of the most yearning, melancholy black metal riffs this side of Mortifera's "Le Revenant"; you don't know whether to cry or throw up the horns. Moments like that are many throughout "Monument to Time End."
Deserving particular attention is Wrest's drumming. It's nice to hear him behind a real kit again and Sanford Parker's booming production provides the warmth and reverb that his drumming demands. It's just fucking huge, replete with fill after dexterous fill and so much flashy ridework you'll be wondering how many Rush albums he listened to in preparation for this recording. After hearing this one can only hope that the rumours are true and Leviathan is working on new material rather than languishing in the limbo of retirement. It's obvious, from even a fucking drum performance, that the man hasn't run out of ideas.
Everyone else is at the top of their game here as well. Imperial's vocals are astonishingly good; since the demise of Krieg i feel he's only gotten better at what he does. Perhaps the narrow view of that project held him back and only now is he allowing himself to open up and explore new avenues of emotional release. Robe Lowe also performs admirably in the vocal department, matching Imperial scream for throat shredding scream. Along with Turner and Judd the four of them turn in some complex choral arrangements as well as a large amount of processed vocals used as textural backdrops. It's a masterful and tasteful extra sonic layer, never overbearing but adding much in terms of depth and sound to the record as a whole. I would have to imagine much of that influence comes from Turner, who has been exploring the use of clean vocals to great effect on the last two Isis albums (the vocals are about the only interesting thing those last two albums have yielded up, IMHO.)
And of course the guitars. So, so many guitars. Almost every member of Twilight is a guitarist as well so it makes sense this record is awash in layers and layers of the stuff. As mentioned above the riffing is beyond reproach, beautiful more often than not and finely tuned to the idea of serving the songs and not taking any sort of spotlit glory. Everything is layered and placed in the proper headphone space for maximum warping results; there's a lot going on here but you never feel overwhelmed. This is the sort of album that is only going to yield up more and more of its densely placed secrets to you with each listening.
I used the word "enchanting" rather than "enthralling" at the start because this record casts a spell more than a mesmerization. It's not repetitive or hypnotic like Burzum but it's just as singular in its quest and just as individual in its sound. Twilight have recorded an absolute masterwork here, near flawless in every aspect. While referencing the cornerstones of classic black metal as well as each member's visionary work on their own projects' albums, the gentlemen of Twilight have created a thoroughly unique beast, something with more arms than a siamese twin octopus and the elegance of a Victorian banquet. I am totally floored by this album and cannot recommend it more highly. If you have any taste for true black metal artistry then you must own "Monument to Time End." It's a stunning achievement for US black metal and a high mark for the genre in general.

1 comment:

Cole said...

Killer review.