Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Twilight Fauna - The Silence Of A Blackening Abyss




Twilight Fauna's debut, "The Silence of a Blackening Abyss," on first listen comes across as amateurish yet ballsy. There are some definite strong points and some definite low points. The band is a self described one man project inspired by Burzum-styled black metal that focuses it's atmospheres on representing the Appalachian Mountains. I really like the concept - American Black Metal rarely presents itself as aware of a national heritage in the sense that European Black Metal does. There are all sorts of regionally appropriate black metal projects from Europe and we have relatively few here, even if we have such unique and distinct music across the continent. I'm still waiting for black metal with banjos and songs about lost dogs and broken down Chevy pickup trucks. For someone to attempt to present some aspect of that is respectable. In many ways however, I don't get a lot of the Appalachian Mountains in these songs and that is saddening, even if there are some excellent ideas scattered throughout.

Nice pictures are included with the download...
Perhaps the only thing specifically "Appalachian" about the music here are the lyrics which invoke copses of birch trees, stories of coal towns and images of mountains. And yet, I also don't get the sense that all the lyrics couldn't also represent any number of similar settings outside of the eastern US's most recognizable mountain chain. Second song, "Centralia" concerns not only Pennsylvania but probably one of the entire country's most famous ghost towns, which was abandoned in the 1960's after a mine fire erupted in the coal mines beneath the town. "Old Ones Arise" could be about the prevalence of Snake-handling religious sects or about something totally unrelated to the region. "The Imperishable Flame" also is a bit sketchy in details as are most of the rest of the songs. "Magnificent Isolation" applauds the independence of the mountaineers of the region - a theme which Black Metal fans should be able to associate with - but once again, isn't specific enough to warrant a truly definite description as Appalachian black metal. If there are specific references, they weren't provided with the copy I received for review - which was off their website. 

Musically, production is very rough on this album with audible digital edits, white noise and a whole mess of sloppy musicianship that was never corrected. Harsh would be an acceptable criticism. "Centralia," which is the best of the tracks offered, still offers all sorts of production issues in this vein. The drumming is often times awkward and out of time with sharp cuts that cut the cymbals off mid-crash or splash. The overall sound of the album is actually fairly on target for what I expect from "bedroom Black Metal" if you will. The guitars are static-riddled fuzz with little crunch and a whole lot of crackle. Still, you can determine notes from them. The bass is audible underneath everything though has little individual character, the drums sound cheap but the problem is more with the playing - it being not very good - than with the tone of them. Vocals are... all over the place. Clean vocals are employed in some places, whispers and grunts and screeches in others. There is little consistency with the presentation of the vocals which results in the most egregious of set backs for someone who isn't moved by the trivialities commonly encountered with solo black metal projects sprouting everywhere these days.

.... but not the actual album cover for some reason.
So, there are some notable moments though to mention outside these faults. Ravenwood, the sole proprietor here, sounds like an extremely intelligent theorist with little hands on ability. Like a student from a trade school with no field experience. The songs are well formulated with specified and distinct sections creating meaningful structures. "Old Ones Arise," for example circumnavigates a large section of whispers and clunky bass notes, before returning to what would be a well placed conclusion reminiscent of earlier sections. Production hampers this somewhat. The intention and ideas are solid; execution not so much. "The Imperishable Flame," once again, opens with a rather moving melody and a nice attempted build up. Execution once again causes a floundering effect. Drums are not in time with accents, vocals come in where expected but flatly... This is repeated across the tracks. Sixth track "Eulogy for Earth," is rather well done but is effectively an intermission too late on the release. I would have included it much earlier to break up some of the other tracks. The outro is bass noodling. It's... interesting... maybe... but not really because it sounds like something I've played while laying naked drunk on my bedroom floor.


I think this could achieve something rather special with some care given to editing, better performances and a less of what could be perceived as rushing on the part of Ravenwood. Details. Details. Details. It could result in a similar effect to that of one of my all time favorite bedroom black metal releases, the Descantation self titled release. This could top that with better production. The songs here are better. Twilight Fauna should stay mindful of the surroundings which the music is intended to represent, be mindful of album pacing and be a tad more perfectionist in editing and performance to achieve a rather exceptional result. Some tracks would be really excellent, such as "The Imperishable Flame," which is slightly less effective here than "Centralia" but would be a highlight with the faults mentioned above even just slightly improved upon. It's actually the best written track but the issues with performance are substantial. The shorter tracks on the release are also good starting points but I wouldn't have put them on the release. I believe improving on just the production issues would make this a good twenty or thirty percent better overall.

2 comments:

Ravenwood said...

This is an honest review of my work and I share your criticisms. My first album was largely a learning experience for me and probably shouldn't have been released so early. My newer releases have a more Appalachian feel as well as better production values. Thanks for taking the time.

Orion M. said...

Thanks for checking out the review. I know you asked me to review the second release specifically but I did listen to this one first to see where the second one came from and get a better idea of the progress from the first to the second release.

Stay tuned for the other release dude. Thanks for the opportunity to review the material!