How many albums or how many songs do you hear each year that give you a glimpse into the creator’s homeland and the traditions held within. Not many, right? And that’s OK. Not every band is resigned to bringing their homeland or territory into their sounds (well, at least if they’re not European), and often what we get is devoid of the strains of where one calls their dwelling.
That’s beginning to shift a bit when it comes to American metal, and Twilight Fauna is one of the bands helping make that so. Long helmed by Johnson City, Tenn.’s own Paul Ravenwood, his band’s music has rounded more toward the Appalachian sounds in recent year. The band’s latest album, the excellent “The Year the Stars Fell,” continues along those dusty, foot traffic-battered roads, giving you a deep breath of air from where he grew up and formed into the person he is today. These six tracks are his most dedicated yet to bluegrass and traditional folk sounds, that meld with his misty, shadowy black metal ideally. Yes, a natural comparison will be (and has been) made to Panopticon, which makes a lot of sense, but these two projects are very different from each other. Ravenwood (who is joined by drummer Josh Thieler of Pittsburgh mashers Slaves B.C.) mars his black metal with cosmos and blankets of sound, often forcing you to listen closely for his animalistic calls and melodic progressions that crawl deep underneath the earth.
“The Ghosts We Leave Behind” starts with plucked banjos and a storm picking up on the horizon. The track is rough and rustic, feeling like it could have emanated by a lost soul in an abandoned field at night. The spirits keep floating over, haunting, and leading toward “Falling Portraits,” a song we premiered last week. Here, black metal fuzz rises up and scorches, as washed-out growls and rumbling drums lead the way. The melodies intertwine and twist through the darkness, with thunder overwhelming as the track heads back into folkish waters. Acoustic guitars and banjos meet, as clean singing from Ravenwood returns, and the rusty sentiments disappear into the night. “Light Over Mountains” is another crusher, though bluegrass elements crawl through the first minutes before the fire catches and lights up the night sky. Harsh growls and ferocity spill, maintaining the intensity, but it, too, has its end point, where it gives way for calm. Whistles call out and solemnity peaks before the crushing re-engages and bursts toward the ending.
“Across the Blueridge” is part of a traditional made famous by Doc Watson, and it’s the rawest track on the album. The singing creaks and cracks, giving it more of a human feel, like Ravenwood is more concerned with the message he’s delivering than the package in which it arrives. “A Thinning Veil” is kicked into gear by the drum work, as we head into a noise-marred demolition, with melody snaking through chaotic madness. Serenity rears its head, with clean guitars and echoed singing, but then everything blows up. The music lays waste to the senses, while the vocals peel away at the flesh. Closer “10 Starless Nights” begins quietly and delicately, as the first minutes trickle into a field of shoegaze, and then the tide turns. The vocals hiss and punish, while the music kicks up dirt and leaves divots in the ground behind it. Coldness enters the air, chilling your flesh, before the music slips into the background and back into the forest whence it came.
Twilight Fauna is using traditional sounds etched from Ravenwood’s home territory and mixing it with the darkest of metallic styles and coming out with something his own. “The Year the Stars Fell” is a dramatic twist in the band’s journey and should provide plenty of fodder for listeners who simply want to lie on the ground and stare at the night sky. Rustic and rousing as this is, it’s a record that could help you make closer ties to the artist’s roots and perhaps even see if they connect to your own.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/twilightfauna
To buy the album, go here: https://twilightfauna.bandcamp.com/album/the-year-the-stars-fell