Black metal experimentalists Twilight defy chaos, tumult on ‘III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb’

Perhaps it’s just poetic that a band that combined some of the most interesting, yet volatile forces in U.S. black metal would come to such a tumultuous finish. Maybe it was written in the stars that it happened that way, and perhaps that’ll add to the band’s lore as time goes on. But from my perspective, it’s really sad because these guys just hit on something amazing.

The band I speak of, of course, is Twilight, a combination of artists that had a definite core but always welcomed some of the most prolific musicians to be a part of their machine over time, never having the same lineup on any of their three records. And each release always had a black heart and soul of its own, from their destructive self-titled debut record through to the more ambitious and sprawling second release “Monument to End Time”, an album I feel never got its due, and now down to their final album “III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb,” their strangest work to date and easily their most exciting. It’s actually a damn shame the guys decided to disband following this record, all the hell they endured completing it aside, because this is the most exciting, jarring, knock-you-for-a-loop document they’ve released to date, and I’d love to hear more from this version of the band and from their current headspace. I guess that’s going to have to be left to our imagination.

As noted, many well-known artists have come and gone through Twilight’s doors, from Malefic of Xasthur, Aaron Turner of ISIS and Mamiffer, Hildof of Draugar, and Blake Judd of Nachtmystium. Well, we all know Judd’s story by now, and if you don’t, Google it because it’s not worth rehashing this thing, and he was supposed to be a part of this record until the rest of Twilight grew tired of his game. That was the first thing that delayed this much-anticipated record, leaving the rest of the band to pick up the pieces and forge ahead with their own vision, one that perhaps benefits greatly from Judd’s absence. I’m guessing here since I wasn’t in the room for the creation process, but I can’t get over how destructive and ominous this record is and the rage and damage conjured by the guys who created these pieces and deliver them with hellfire.

We mentioned the history of the band, but let’s talk about what really counts, that being the guys responsible for “III.” N. Imperial, who you know from Krieg and a ton of other bands, is on guitars and vocals; Wrest, the man behind Leviathan, is here on drums, vocals, and bass; Stavros Giannopoulos, from the Atlas Moth and Chrome Waves, contributes guitars and vocals; Stanford Parker, producer extraordinaire and also a member of bands such as Corrections House and Burial at Sea, contributes keyboards, effects, and production; and Thurston Moore, who you may have heard of from some band called Sonic Youth, is here on guitars and vocals. That’s a lineup for the ages anyway, sort of like the perfect band to play during the end of the world that’ll destroy your mind and senses as the earth burns to death. Oh, and if you’re all caught up by Moore being here, get over it and listen to this thing. I shouldn’t even have to explain this to anyone, but have you ever heard the man play a guitar? He’ll deafan you, and he mixes in wonderfully here.

The record opens with “Lungs,” that immediately rakes your eyes with stinging guitar squall and a numbing tempo, that leads into furious growls that are complemented by crazed yowls lurking behind. The song is perfectly damaged, with layers and layers of sound colliding, and the finish is just monstrous. “Oh Wretched Son” begins with tortured wails that sound like they’re rolling from Wrest’s throat, and while the song dizzies and disorients you, it also pulls you into cooler spaces with the trickling guitar work. But then ferocity returns, the vocals release a sense that you are in severe danger, and the black metal swagger that settles in reeks of confidence, anger, and a lack of control over your fate. The noise that rips out and sizzles at the end perfectly encapsulates the damage that precedes it. “Swarming Funeral Mass” has slurry guitar, programmed drum beats, and deathly doom riffs that serve to enhance the thick shadows. The vocals are menacing and abrasive, the noise continues to boil, and the effects that slip in are of the cosmos, making you wonder from what world they originated.

“Seek No Shelter Fevered Ones” kicks off the second half of the album with strange transmissions and cymbal crashes before meeting up with bristling guitars, thrashy sentiments, and programmed beats that pelt you like machine gun fire. There’s a hazy, medicine head feel to a lot of this track, with gruff vocals, noise festering, and an intensity that keeps building as the song reaches its conclusion. The final moments drill into you and bore through you, like it’s trying to dig into your body cavity. It’s intense. “A Flood of Eyes,” a song that has just about every members’ hands involved in the writing process, is the weirdest of the bunch but also one of the most intriguing. The pace is calculating, with the melodies veering into post-rock-style territory, but just when you think it’s going to soar into the atmosphere, it rams everything back down to earth. There is pulverizing playing, melodies that remind me of a black rainstorm, and gurgly, fearsome growling and feedback that pull the track into the abyss. Closer “Below Lights” is an ideal ending, with weird electronics, unhinged vocals that seem to be welcoming the end, noisy guitars, and bristling experimentation. There is industrial chaos smeared all over this thing, with chugging riffs pounding and a bizarre finish that should make you tilt your head before you bow it in reverence for the passing of the best version of Twilight to date.

I think I’ve made it clear that I mourn the passing of Twilight, especially with them offering up their strongest, most diverse record in their history with “Beneath Trident’s Tomb.” Luckily, we will get more from the respective members and their own projects (new Krieg is in the works, as well as new Leviathan, and there’s talk of Imperial and Wrest doing something further together), which makes the blow a little easier. But it’s awesome to hear how these guys fought against the odds, absorbed all of the torment, ignored what people would expect from a Twilight record, and created something wholly theirs and powerfully different. All hail Twilight, a band that after its corpse was almost burned to a crisp still found a way to go out on top.

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