For the past six years, the various bands associated with the Black Twilight Circle have been releasing primitive and ingeniously unique black metal in limited run cassettes tapes through their own record label Crepusculo Negro. Entitled Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons, the new compilation from CN/BTC is a forty-five minute four track affair by four of the Circle’s most ruthless stalwarts. Also featuring yet another mind-boggling painting by BTC co-conspirator Aaron Briggs.
While many devotees of this Southern Californian black metal legion will be clawing at the door to hear the new Shataan or Kallathon songs,-- “Falling into the Horizon, Burning into the Black Twilight” being Kallathon’s first new song in four years--the real heart of this black matter is the opening track, Volahn’s “Chamalcan.”
While Volahn’s previous work, especially the track “Bonampak” from last year’s incredible Aq’ab’al, featured some indigenous southwestern American instrumentation and vibes,--as does much of the BTC’s more recent oeuvre--the first two minutes of “Chamalcan” is like a revolution in sound. If this intro is any indicator of the shape of what’s to come, then it looks like Volahn, and his allies, too, no doubt, have reached a third epoch of their sound. The first being a novel, but slightly more conventional type of primitive black metal that focused largely on conscious altering drugs; whereas the second epoch saw the BTC bands, especially the bands in which Eduardo Ramirez (Volahn) played a key role, moving toward a more unique sound through the use of wooden flutes and other so-called native American instruments. Now, according to the J-card of Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons, the group has moved onto what they are calling, simply, “western Black Metal.” And Volahn’s track stands as the paradigm.
By now you’ve listened to the Volahn track at least six times, so it won’t shock you to know that when asked in person if Ennio Morricone was an influence, Ramirez responded “Oh yeah.” Which brief conversation took part a few weeks ago on a Monday night in Pittsburgh upon Volahn's East Coast tour. Those handful of shows are thus far the only instances in which DDaSS were available to the general plebeians. I myself had to buy fives copies to send out to friends all over the world--friends who couldn't make it to the show whether due to distance or work, and also couldn't slake themselves on the Bandcamp streams, nor wait for the compilation to be released on LP/CD by ANJA Offensive & Iron Bonehead in the (let's hope) not-too-distant future.
Who knows if future material from BTC-related projects will sound like Ennio Morricone-inspired black metal, but if the past is a key to understanding the future, I would bet my copy of the 2013 Anhuac Tour press of Tliltic Tlapoyauak on it. And if not then Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons is even more special because it shows how united in sound and vision the members of the Black Twilight Circle are. Because while Volahn’s track is the most “western”-sounding song on the album, it’s more than evident that Shataan and Kallathon both are riding aboard the spaghetti western wagon. Even the ever-out-of-step Arizmenda sounds if not western then something like the setting sun, as if slowly descending into darkness.
For those unfortunates who must settle for streaming mp3s on Crepusculo Negros' Bandcamp, hang in there. The physical formats are allegedly impending. Until then, look toward the west from whence the shadows come.