Production: resonant and spacious with a pleasant dynamic range, not especially loud. Drum kit sound is largely natural with little sound replacement. Mix levels are outstanding with no instrument particularly overpowering another. Shimmering, snarling guitar tones are supported by a clear and gently distorted bass with vocals expressed as a mid-range howl “above” the mix’s center.
In this late era of history, there exists about four decades of extreme metal, which may be understood to have begun around the time as the release of triumphant masterpieces like ‘Show No Mercy’ or ‘Seven Churches’
Change is constant in life, and music is no exception – to this end, by 2023, we have seen many “waves” or generations come and go – the first and second waves of Black Metal, the wave of untraditional grindcore which began with Human Remains then was furthered by Discordance Axis and Pig Destroyer, the late-2010s resurgence of Death Metal, etc.
In every generation, there are bands who can be understood as being not entirely innovative, but some composite of other groups with little unique inspiration. They share a space with their peers, but do not fill it with a voice almost entirely their own – or at least one in which the constituent influences are combined to create a greater whole and a tonal microcosm that may lead one to say, “yes, this band sounds mostly like themselves”.
The best of these produce works of timelessness which synthesize influences but do not strictly imitate them, and it is in this way that sometimes a “modern classic” may be introduced to the canon of metal: something which can reward a listener multiple times, offer new discoveries past an initial listen and holds a deliberate inner logic in its aesthetic design and musical composition.
Enter Predatory Light: comprised of veteran musicians (other adjacent projects include Vanum, Superstition, Ash Borer), the band have released only two LPs over the six years between 2016-2022 – yet these recordings retain a defiantly modern character which exudes the primordial spirit of metal.
On ‘Death and the Twilight Hours’, the band refine and expand upon the unusual style that made their self-titled debut a sleeper hit within the vibrant underground landscape of 2016: this recording sounds like it was created by ghosts, to put it simply. Expert songwriter Kyle Morgan seems to have uncovered a strange tonal character which is expressed in just the first few minutes of the album’s sprawling opener, ‘The Three Living and the Three Dead’, but is felt throughout the entirety of the album. Each song possesses different twists and movements which delineate their internal dynamics, yet at every moment there remains a wistful melodic quality that is at once both oddly sinister and beautiful – this cannot be easily expressed in terms of strict dissonance or consonance, but rather a unique space between both tonal idioms.
Stylistically, the band retain some familiar aspects: the music is set at a largely mid-tempo pace, generally oriented around sixteenth note rhythms with certain triplet sections (such as the end of the first track at 11:40. Rhythmic structures are often expressed through rudimentary but solid double bass and blast beat drumming. Eerie lead guitars creep over the riffing at times, adding layers of sinister melody.
The songwriting is overall flowing and cohesive. Themes are consistently introduced, maintained and gradually broken down or replaced.
Examples of this can be heard in the opening track: Following an intro of chilling keyboards joined with a wistful and circular guitar melody, the band crash into a triumphant initial riff based on a series of open string, power chord, and tremolo melodies that is followed by a prominent section comprised of two individual phrases at 2:14 (an A/B structure): an urgent, exotic sounding ascending melody (A) followed by a whirling, almost cheerful phrase (B).
This is cycled through several times before the band introduces a “condensed” version of the first of those two melodies at 3:35.
Charging bass and drums underneath creates forward pressure leading to a build-up before an extended and somber ambient section at 3:57.
This lasts a minute before the band return to a riff at 5:00 which itself is based on the song’s first riff, adding higher notes and melodic flourishes to create a sense of variation and movement. This is further developed with harmonized lines over the rhythm playing around 6:00-7:00.
Eventually, at 8:26, the band return entirely to the “A/B” section introduced more than five minutes prior. Then, at 9:47 an extended outro section is begun.
Transitioning to clean guitars at 11:40, the band drops the distortion entirely until 12:10 where they play a distorted version of the previous clean melody until the end of the song.
The first track is by far the longest and a good primer – if one doesn’t enjoy this song, they may not enjoy the rest of the album, though they are shorter and more concise: “To Plead Like Angels” starts quickly with little buildup and flows quickly and deliberately between tonally similar riffs that build on each other constantly. The song ends with another ambient swell of clean guitars and bass after more than six minutes of turnover.
The remainder of compositions on this album feature similar processes and could mostly be described as “theme and variations”: each and every transition is both deliberate and smooth, not haphazardly slapping parts together.
The chilling and supernatural atmosphere of this album cannot be overstated – a dark energy suffuses every song regardless of its expression through clean ambience or racing and aggressive riffing. There’s sadness, anger, contemplation, pensiveness, and even bitter moments of “happiness” here.
‘Death and the Twilight Hours’ is a highly impressive and distinct album which will represent the band well for years. It requires patience to understand, and may not be as immediately rewarding as other recordings, but those who derive a sense of tranquility and contemplation from their Black Metal will not be disappointed.