Black Twilight Circle founder Volahn offers ritualistic, dark metallic violence on ‘Aq’Ab’Al’

VolahnThere probably won’t be a ton of arguments from people if I suggest that the metal landscape is a bit oversaturated. There are so many bands, just as many records, and numerous labels operating, that freshness seems like a hopeless endeavor. But if you look hard enough, you can find artists carving their own way.

One such musician is Volahn, founder of the mysterious, heavily secretive Black Twilight Circle and jack of all trades for his own black metal project under his chosen moniker. The name Volahn translates into “ritual kaos,” and I’ll be damned if that’s not exactly what the six tracks on new, second overall full-length “Aq’Ab’Al” sound like. On the surface anyway. These tracks also demonstrate that taking new inroads to creating metal can be priceless, as Volahn attacks his art in a way not many other artists do these days. There’s a definite concentration on how the songs are presented, sounding as raw and primitively savage as humanly possible. He also colors in some of the ends with vast acoustic pieces that seem to flow out of the Mayan origins he explores and transports you to his origins as a person. It’s both chilling and stimulating.

Volahn coverVolahn himself is a man who spreads his talents over a myriad number of projects, including Axeman, Kallathon, Dolorvotre, Shataan, and many others, but this project is his main focus. Ever since the project’s formation more than a decade ago, Volahn has introduced his listeners to a dark, fiery side to the creation of black metal, with less effort put into polish and spit shine and more into interpreting the very chaos he feels in his soul. It’s an honest, true depiction of his blackness, and the music is like nothing you’ll hear anywhere else. Really, to fully understand why that’s the case, you have to spend time with the music and absorb what’s going on. That’s the only way to logically, spiritually understand what’s special about Volahn’s music.

“Najtir Ichik” rips the lid off this sucker, pulling you in with raw machination and melodies swirling around you, threatening to make the room spin forever. Volahn unleashes his trademark growls that creak and mock, keeping the ritualistic fires burning brightly while he assaults your senses. Most of these 13 minutes are relentless and churning, but there are instances when the tempo changes suddenly, at times injecting calm and at others sitting on a punk-fueled edge that’s actually kind of catchy. As the song winds to a close, it begins to storm heavily again, with Volahn’s playing catching you in a bizarre vortex of power. “Halhi Khoba” has a blistering opening that leads into a strange, echoing section of noises that could cause you to tilt your head in confusion. Out of that, Volahn’s guitars surge, spreading more infectious melodies that seem to pile up on one another, spitting color everywhere, and the way he approaches this song is rather inventive. The nasty growls return and deface, with all fires burning and the guitar work charging toward the song’s end. “Bonampak” is another epic journey, running 11 minutes exactly and starting with monstrous growls and an assault that should blow you over. Some chilling keys are served up, adding an extra level of terror, while the guitars just spider all over, never even hinting at where they’re headed next. The pace is just fierce, as Volahn gallops hard and spews absolute darkness, with his howling voice serving as a stark reminder that he’s not afraid to put blades through you. Yet, when the madness seems to be at its peak, he pulls back and lets acoustics take over the final few minutes of the song, dashing his intense composition with strains of his heritage.

“Quetzalcoatl” has a typically savage opening, with brutal vocals bleeding forth, incredible layered melodies that build mountains of chaos on top of each other, and eventually some music that feels like it shimmers. The vocals later sound like a hiss, countered by enormous wails, drums that are outright assaulted, and even some warm keys, as everything mashes into a dreamy sequence that glows and eventually melts away. “Koyopa” ignites from the start, with crazed vocals that sound maniacal and lead guitars that spiral and create fireworks. Volahn obviously is a sucker for melodies that are planted into the madness, and he brings more of them here, and the guitar work positively soars. This is another cut where, as the elements bubble heavily to the surface, the tension is pulled back and acoustic guitars, which Volahn taps and strums, construct the final moments. Closer “Nawalik” is the least varied of the bunch, as it’s pretty much wall-to-wall violence, starting with vicious thundering from all elements, guitars storming hard, and raw, vicious vocals barreling out. There are some guitar lines beneath all of this that sound a little surfy, which might just be something my brain is tricking me into hearing. Volahn spends these nine minutes bringing his final serving of punishment that is dark, unforgiving, and thrashing, ending the record in as crushing a tone possible.

Volahn, as well as the Black Twilight Circle, remain some of the most mysterious, compelling forces in underground black metal, and this project harkens back to a time when unleashing one’s creative fires took precedence over glossy publicity photos and slick social media campaigns. “Aq’Ab’Al” is like a return to black metal’s roots, an era when the creation of this music stood for something and were transmissions only a selected amount of people could truly understand. I’m not even certain I completely connect with Volahn’s entire vision, but I’m looking forward to doing so the more time I spend with his music.

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