Album: Desert Dances & Serpent Sermons
Label: Crepúsculo Negro
Launching out the door with a beautiful clean melody that sounds like it belongs in a spaghetti western, Volahn wastes absolutely no time setting the tone that the Black Twilight Circle wants to set with their newest collaborative effort: the Desert Dances & Serpent Sermons split tape between several of the stars of the indigenous-sounding Crepúsculo Negro label, which, for those that don’t know, is a Southern California based label that fronts Mexican-American black metal that tends to incorporate folk melodies into their heritage inspired music.
As this is a split between four bands, each song will be separately reviewed instead of focusing on the effort as a whole. The first one up is Volahn’s Chamalcan, which, again, opens with the clean spaghetti western bit; even as the song smoothly transitions into black metal, odd stylistic choices and unusually (for black metal) technical melodies fade back and forth between more traditional and atmospheric riffs, occasionally interrupted by tasteful soloing. Volahn’s vocals soar over everything, providing that extra bit of emotion that makes the track really come together. Finally, the track works its way back to the initial melody, slightly altered at the very end, to provide the completion that any great individual effort really needs. If this isn’t my new favorite Volahn track, it still stands up very well for itself, and has been an absolute pleasure to hear live the two times I’ve managed to catch Volahn this year so far.
Next up on split is Shataan, a Volahn/Morbundad/Shataan collaborative group and one of the least active CN artists, who play on this three songs merged into one; a folk inspired intro without any traces of black metal in it, and the two more metal tracks that justify the inclusion of the band onto a black metal collab. After the beautiful opener is finished, Shataan launches into an extremely ambitious piece that mixes a flute and clean vocals (along with what sounds like a harmonica? on the third part) with its black metal as fluently as most bands include their more traditional elements. Slower atmospheric parts compete with faster blasting ones and come together in a way that, while enjoyable, is to me the weakest part of the split; while I like the folk elements that the Black Twilight Circle loves to mix into their black metal, Shataan takes them too far for me, especially when partnered with Shataan’s passionate but not particularly good clean vocals.
Third comes Arizmenda, which, after a brief intro, launces straight into some of the most straight-played black metal on the entire split. Fast tremolo picked riffs vary between higher threshold melodic lines and lower parts that serve best as the backdrop to Arizmenda’s frenzied vocal assault, which is augmented by subtle and tasteful synths that act entirely as song enhancers and never attempt to stand on their own as musical elements. Halfway through, the track slows down a lot, getting more atmospheric and trancelike while Arizmenda continues to wail and finally closing with a beautiful instrumental section of melodic black metal before completely ending with one last shriek. Overall, this is my second favorite song on the split behind Volahn’s track.
Finally, Kallathon’s track comes on, and, in line with the rest of the split, opens with another intro bit, this one made up of ever-so-slightly-distorted bouncing around within a couple of chord shapes before shifting to Kallathon’s clean vocals humming over clean guitarwork, and then moving on into the meat of the track: slow, epic-feeling black metal that slowly trades in extreme melody for a more traditional black metal assault, though the melody never completely vanishes. Fast drumming- presumably provided by Volahn, who has historically been Kallathon’s drummer- augments the song throughout. While the track starts off a bit weaker than I’d prefer as a standalone (though it’d work well as the first song in a longer effort), it quickly moves into territory that I really enjoy and does a fine job of closing up this most recent Crepúsculo Negro split.
As a whole, this tape is well worth getting, though it’s brought down somewhat by the less-enjoyable Shataan track and by the momentum-breaking intros that drag on too long for both Shataan and Kallathon in between tracks; perhaps if the track ordering was different it’d work a bit better (such as placing the faster moving Arizmenda after another band on the second half of the tape rather than starting it), but as-is, those remain my largest complaints.