Over the course of three albums, USBM supergroup Twilight has journeyed from kult purists to explorers of the fringe parameters of the genre. Set to release III: Beneath Tridents Tomb on March 18, the band find themselves at the furthest remove from their original sound, yet still possessing both an attitude and sonic harshness that keeps them comfortably within the confines of black metal.
The trajectory of this band can be traced via its ever-shifting lineup. Twilight‘s self-titled debut featured members culled almost exclusively from the grimmest black metal bands. While Wrest and N. Imperial, of Leviathan and Krieg respectively, have remained in the group since its inception, the rest of the lineup has shifted with each release, incorporating an array of musicians with a broader range of influences, including Blake Judd of Nachtmystium, Malefic of Xasthur and Aaron Turner of Isis. On III, Twilight finds Wrest and Imperial joined by Sanford Parker (Corrections House, Minsk), Stavros Giannopoulos of The Atlas Moth, and Thurston Moore, formerly of Sonic Youth.
There is no doubt that Moore’s name is the one most likely to raise eyebrows, and attract the attention of the non-metal press. But he has a long history of sonic extremity, usually in more improv-based settings such as Diskaholics Anonymous Trio and collaborations with artists like John Zorn, Cock E.S.P. and Borbetomagus‘s Jim Sauter and Don Dietrich. While it’s hard to know for sure where Moore pops up on this set, one can imagine the skree kicking in the album opener “Lungs” to be the result of his input. In fact, the whole album seems to be drenched in a layer of guitar filth, precisely targeted detonations of feedback and skronk that seem nearly as important as the actual riffs. While these contributions surely come from all the members, it is easy to picture Thurston Moore torturing his guitars in the studio every time a particularly intriguing piece of six-string fuckery occurs.
Sonic filth is indeed the order of the day here. The second track, “Oh Wretched Son,” seems to sum up the approach of the entire album. The first half of the song is an alternating tug-of-war between discordant mid-paced riffs and fuzzed-out blast beats, all of it a nod to Wrest’s work under the Leviathan name. As the song progresses, the tempos begin to falter and the whole thing climaxes in a sludge-ridden sturm und drang, the drums steady as the guitars, bass and noise drop in and out of the mix, black metal vocals choking through on top of it all.
The sludge elements are really what set this album apart from the rest of the black metal hordes. The sound is absolutely filthy. Distorted electronic drums lock in to the traditional acoustic beats, noise is spread generously around, and Moore’s guitar pops out of the mix to stab the eardrums of the listener. The riffs are almost reminiscent of the early ’90s Controlled Bleeding side-project Skin Chamber, or even early Swans.
Throughout black metal’s sordid history, progression has often been achieved through symphonic elements and clean vocals. Certainly, bands such as Enslaved and Borknagar have reaped the benefits of diving into the deep well of prog rock. But Twilight have charted a different course. This is progression through all things filthy, and is all the more interesting for it.
Allen Griffin is a member of Coffinworm, whose new album IV.I.VIII is out March 18. Get it from Amazon.