Black Twilight Circle - Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons (Iron Bonehead/The Ajna Offensive)

Black metal Satan in a stetson and spurs...
Release Date: 
18 Dec 2015 - 12:30am

Those boundary-pushing fellows of the Black Twilight Circle have once again blown my tiny mind with Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons, making me re-evaluate what constitutes black metal and how far one can take the genre. In the case of Desert Dances, the answer to that question is, quite simply, exceeding far. There are only four tracks on here but each one clocks in over nine minutes long so you get a good 40+ minutes of black metal pushed to its logical extreme.

Opener Chamalan kicks off with a strange western (as in cowboys and indians) intro, all twangy Americana-like, before the blasting, riffage and guttural vocals kick in. Volahn take black metal, warp it via whatever styling takes their fancy on any given day, and finally push out a track that is anything but black metal AND YET IT'S WHOLLY BLACK METAL. How do they do it? I don't know but it's bloody engaging (and the soloing is inspired). Follow this up with Shataan's Camino del Destino/Desert Smoke/Wells Run Dry (is it three songs in one? Who knows, who cares) with un-nerving wind instruments that evoke the desert in the night-times (an aesthetic that permeates the entire album) and it's peyote-madness for everyone. Chanting builds and the flutes howl - there's harmonica too but it all works seamlessly. It's both mellow and raging. Contradiction in hell is unity in heaven. Splendid, splendid stuff.

Arizmenda's Ropeburn mutilation on the outskirts of life starts with a weird 1960's pop chorus "Na-na-na" kind of thing, throws in some organ and then goes abso-fucking-luteley ballistic. This is possibly the maddest track on here but I love it. Skittering guitars, chaotic chords and blasting drums whisk me away to all manner of glorious dark places.

Finally it's Falling into the Horizon, Burning into the Black Twilight care of Kallathon. Again, it's a twangy start but you just know it's going to go nuts. But no! A rather groovy drum pattern comes in and the Native American-like chants slither up your spine before some razor sharp chords stand up, throwing up black shapes as the fires roar and howl in the desert night. Sorry - I got a bit carried away there...Now the tune becomes a grunting shape-shifting beast; oh! Those drums...Lo! I am a prairie-fox...

It's like Ennio Morricone took a bunch of mescaline with the greats of the Norwegian black metal always; magnificent..