Predatory Light : Death and the Twilight Hours
Metal is rooted in tradition. The dark heart of genre sprung to life when Toni Iommi struck the “devil’s note” opening Black Sabbath’s debut album, and the sub-genres that grew from this roots are playing faster, slower or more spastic versions of what the forefathers established. Devotees of the genre are obsessively passionate in being defenders of the faith when it comes to what is metal and what is not. However, it’s the influences brought in from other genres of music that has kept metal vital for the past 50 years. It is also one of the things that stood out with Ash Borer, the band Kyle Morgan played in before lending his six-string skills to Predatory Light.
Ash Borer were one of the forerunners of the modern American atmospheric black metal scene, taking the ambiance of post rock and blending it with the bleak drone of black metal. They brought new colors that painted a picture of deserts rather than frosty Nordic woodlands. Predatory Light retains a fraction of that ambiance, while remaining a black metal band. The difference is that most of the atmospheric sound doesn’t come from the guitar tone, but from the reverb-heavy mix, yielding a dark, cavernous sound. Yet the guitars gallop and chug their way back to the hallowed days of metal’s earlier traditions. Guitar harmonies and melodies are the driving force, even when set back against the shadows.
It was midway into listening to the group’s second album, Death and the Twilight Hours, when the influence of Mercyful Fate and Dissection became so clear that there was no way for me to unhear them. Granted, those are two of my favorite bands, so if a band is going to wear their influences on their sleeves, then they have excellent taste in who they draw inspiration from. They play off guitar riffs that weave a romantic darkness with the aggressive immediacy of thrash.
There is something tangible in the darkness that Predatory Light wield. Though they might not be disciples of ancient evil, they do display several strengths in harnessing the aesthetic, one of them being their devotion to not living off a steady diet of blast beats. They use bursts of speed that are interjected throughout, but double bass is far more common. And I, for one, am fine with the second wave of black metal’s dependence on blast beats slowly fading from the genre. Rather than just droning you into a hypnotic lull with tremolo picked guitar, they have a greater range of dynamics that leads to them to dip into an almost neoclassical mood.
Predatory Light don’t rely on a formula for songwriting, aside from the importance of guitar harmonies rather than big riffs. They tend to latch onto a melodic theme and work off that, not keen on big hooks or choruses. Instead they rely more on their high dexterity scores, with which they speed up and down the fretboard. So much so that some of the guitar work even reminds me of early Iron Maiden. There are no triumphant gallops into battle, just a charge forward into dark castles where vampires might lurk. You get that feeling with no over-the-top musical theatrics, just creepy chord progressions that wink in the direction of doom, even as they exceed 120 BPMs. “Death and the Twilight Hours” is the most accessible song of the bunch, even without an anthemic chorus, and it’s not until the last song, “To Plead Like Angels,” that Predatory Light gain the kind of momentum that finds them blasting into a tempo more common in contemporary black metal.
By and large, Death and the Twilight Hours is a love letter to the tradition of metal, one in which the unique rawness of the production will still win over Mayhem fans while paying homage to Ye olde metal.
Label: 20 Buck Spin