One of the stronger aspects of black metal can be its tendency toward the sinister. Whilst there’s a lot to be said for the kind of record which goes all-in on raw, physical power with blasting drums and furious guitars, it can be even more stirring when a band emphasises the way that melodies can be used to ensnare and enchant. Such is the case with Predatory Light and their latest album Death and the Twilight Hours, which is a dark delight.
The band waste no time putting their melodies front-and-centre, and use them throughout as the main focus of their songs, to the extent that the riffs and rhythm section (and even the vocals at times) feel like they’re there mainly to give the guitar leads something to ground them. This might sound like a slight, but it’s no such thing – when the melodies are this enchanting, putting them to the forefront only makes sense and is in keeping with this style of black metal which, having melody as a central component, wouldn’t be accurately described as melodic black metal. That phrase implies an accessibility and relative softness which is absent here. As with the likes of Negative Plane (a core comparison for the record), what at first may appear approachable and provides the hook to snare the listener’s initial attention later reveals surprising depths. It is a rare, remarkable feat, to tap so deeply into the more immediate thrills of heavy metal whilst simultaneously maintaining an air of mystery and the occult.
It’s this mysterious aura which makes Death and the Twilight Hours so strong. The melodic leads may provide an initial thrill and sense of excitement, but it’s the atmosphere which permeates the album that makes it so truly notable. There is a sense of majesty about it, revelling in the macabre and embracing the end – only fitting for an album inspired by historical accounts of plague. Darkly triumphant, there is something oddly life-affirming about the sinister energy it puts across (to say nothing of the raw energy and momentum contained within these songs).
If there is any complaint to be made it is that the tracks on Death and the Twilight Hours do tend to blur into one another after a while, but it must be emphasised that this is a minor complaint in the scheme of things – when the songs are this strong and enchanting, it barely matters. Considered as a whole, Death and the Twilight Hours is a dark triumph, weaving a spell that lasts long after the record has finished.
Death and the Twilight Hours is out on 20th May via 20 Buck Spin and can be ordered here.
Words: Stuart Wain