Various Artists (Black Twilight Circle) - Tliltic Tlapoyauak
Ajna Offensive
Black/death metal
1 songs (01:55:54)
Release year: 2014
The Ajna Offensive
Reviewed by Charles
I would not normally go out of my way to review a compilation but this is a bit different. The Black Twilight Circle is a little clique within American extreme metal, centred around a group of musicians in Southern California. I don’t know about all of them, but key members are of Mexican and Guatemalan heritage, and the recurrent themes across many of the projects involved pick up on Mayan and Aztec mythology. Hence that (ridiculously cool) cover art, plus many of the band names and song titles you will find herein. As with a lot of these kind of scenes, we find that a lot these projects are basically one or two person jobs, so quite frequently seemingly completely different contributions (e.g. those by Volahn and Axeman) turn out to be the work of the same guy. And while obviously in a release like this the quality might be uneven, this is a real goldmine for people unfamiliar with Black Twilight and looking for something interesting.

So: shadowy, pseudonymised ‘circle’, lots of ‘heritage’-oriented themes, this is obviously at heart a black metal release and that is what most of the bands here play. The ‘tribal’ elements of the sound are definitely downplayed, especially in comparison to other US projects drawing influences from native cultures, like Blood of the Black Owl; tribal drumming and piping segments really just bookend the first and last tracks. Rather, on the best contributions here, what we have here is black metal played with a genuine urge to carve out distinctive sounds. The opening statement by Kaxum Suum is particularly impressive; it is a total riff-fest, but filled with strangely ambiguous tonalities, and winding, elongated guitar lines. Then there is the scratchy, screeching treble-laden assault offered by Dolorvotre, and the strange jangling melodies of Volahn. These were the ones that stood out most for me, anyway, as offering quite a fresh approach.

But, this is not just a black metal compilation, and it seems within the ranks there are potentially some real death metal heavyweights. I really like the haphazard rattling of Blue Hummingbird on the Left, punctuated by mad hooting from the vocalist. More imposing still is Muknal’s abstract and oppressive contribution, which put me in mind of recent stuff by Australians Altars. Then, there is the haunting presence of… uh… The Haunting Presence, whose (actually quite linear) death metal is turned into something altogether more freakish by the bestial yells and grunts that swarm throughout it.

I don’t see much point in dwelling on tracks that I thought were weaker. Shataan’s stuff seems way too raw under-rehearsed to my ears, which I a shame: it’s the one track here which tries hardest to draw in the native folk traditions of their region in much the same way as a lot of European acts have garnered great acclaim for doing. Then there is Axeman… a completely incongruous closer, which starts with amateurish synth and directionless vocal pootling before morphing into a weirdly epic slab of 80s retro heavy metal, with overblown falsetto vocals and all of that. I think probably the first sign that Black Twilight Circle also has a bit of a sense of humour, which is nice. Anyhow, a great compilation- get it!

Killing Songs :
Lots, but my favourite was Tzol'kin by Kaxun Suum
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