Twilight
Monument to Time End

If you’ve come here looking for sparkly emo vampires, then we have a review for you. The rest of you should already know that this is the second release from US black metal supergroup Twilight, and like the album title suggests, it is truly monumental.

The first Twilight release in 2005 featured an amazing line-up of USBM auteurs from Leviathan, Krieg, Xasthur, Nachtmystium and Draugar. Not surprisingly, it was a relentlessly bleak and harrowing experience, and although each member’s style could be heard throughout the album, it was on more of a track-by-track basis.

Monument to Time End takes a different, more holistic approach, and that’s largely due to the more varied line-up this time. Wrest (Leviathan) and Blake Judd (Nachtmystium) return, with Imperial back on vocals. Then they brought in the new members from the world of sludge and doom: Stavros Giannopolous from The Atlas Moth, Sanford Parker from Minsk and Aaron Turner from Isis. The result is a truly genre-splicing effort that renders what was once simply black and depressive into something more organic, dynamic and expansive.

You can hear the change in sound right from the start of opener “The Cryptic Ascension,” with a huge, throaty and unmistakably sludgy stoner-metal riff; big lungfuls of ash and smoke from a skull-bong that fill the air with acrid haze and black metal atmosphere. Then the room abruptly clears with a blast of night air — a surprisingly rockin’ post-punk backbeat. This soon gives way to a black/shoegazer section that echoes with haunting clean vocals. The hybrid composition of “Cryptic Ascension” suggests that Monument to Time End will be a kaleidoscopic journey that showcases each member’s unique sensibilities and talents, and the rest of the tracks do not disappoint.

Follow-up “Fall behind Eternity” is even more psychedelic and all-consuming, a death-shaman wandering through miserable, netherworld realms before conjuring a fiery black steed and charging across the landscape at full black-metal gallop. Those of you mourning the end of Wrest’s Leviathan project will be right at home here, though the whirling, rippling FX make this even more spacey and astral than I remember from Tentacles of Whorror or Massive Conspiracy Against All Life. And keep your ears open for a single crescendo of distortion at the 8-minute mark, which I can only describe as the tearing of the veil between worlds. It’s the tiniest of details but it’s one of my favorite moments on the album.

The second half of “8000 Years” is another mind-blowing passage; after another upbeat rock tempo – more urgent and cathartic than out-of-place, although the purists will likely gnash and grind their teeth — there’s a layered, pulsing cacophony of clean moans, electronics, progressive guitar lines and bashing drums. It’s both violent and transcendent, far more than just black/shoegazer. I’m a huge fan of Enslaved’s later, psychedelic works, but their last album Vertebrae left me a bit cold; the end of “8000 Years” just destroys it.

“Red Fields” does ambient black/doom better than Urna, even working in some acoustic strumming – think Fen or Wolves in the Throne Room – in its final minutes. “Convulsions in Wells of Fever” is a junkie’s mad, nightmare plunge into brambles barbed with filthy needles and broken glass, and it’s probably the most quintessentially black metal track on here.

After that, the album slips a bit, relying more on mutating soundscapes than the structured and striking changes of its earlier epics. After a trance-inducing intro, “Decaying Observer” outstays its welcome with 5 minutes of roiling space-ambience and echoed screaming before finding its way again. “The Catastrophe Exhibition” is a largely monotonous chunk of lurching, pulsing doom, though it does kick off with acoustic strumming. And while industrial closer “Negative Signal Omega” is also largely ambient, it ends the entire album on a high note with its mantra of clean chanted vocals.

Needless to say (from the length and detail in this review), Monument to Time End blew me away. The first Twilight was excellent but this is far more immersive and awe-inspiring. It’s the aural equivalent of those amazing lightning storms in the ash clouds of Eyjafjallajokull — organic, billowing destruction shot through with moments of light and majesty. 2010 has already been a tremendous year for boundary-pushing black metal, what with releases from Ihsahn, Alcest, Johann Wolfgang Pozoj, Ludicra and Negura Bunget already jostling for position on my year-end list. They’ll have to make room for this Monument as well.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
May 7th, 2010

Comments

  1. Commented by: PF

    Oh man, I can’t wait to hear this! I was a bit disappointed by the somewhat overwhelming density of the first Twilight album (it didn’t have the spaciousness that any of the members have in their own projects, to my ears), but this review describes the Twilight that I’ve always wanted to hear!!!


  2. Commented by: Stiffy

    I actually really liked what I’ve heard so far. Thats kind of surprising for me, but it’s one hell of a sound. I’ll be looking into this further. Great review, you sexy man you.


  3. Commented by: Cynicgods

    It is a completely different animal from the first one yet I think I like this even more. Great review, Gaba. Funny opening statement plus a link to one of the funniest reviews ever. Sneaky, sneaky! ;)


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