FORCE OF DARKNESS – Twilight of Dark Illumination (2021)REVIEW

After two decades of stoking their own recklessly achieved infamy as the unholier-than-thou distillate of the revered Santiago, Chile-area bestial thrash metal underground a third full-length album from the brutal and chaotic trio of fiends behind Force of Darkness is rightfully met as a tectonic event. ‘Twilight of Dark Illumination‘ is a stone-cold reminder of the eldest standards of uncompromisingly evil speed metal and its ability to conjure the fire beneath us all, that which lies patiently below waiting to cleanse and devour. There’ll be no abominant surprises served here, though we can safely state that a decade’s worth of work finds the trio at peak precision attack — An embodiment of the oldest most hatefully extreme guard without serving brain-scrambling kinetics the entire time. They worship the same black flame splattered thrashing Hell that made their previous releases such spectacle but this time around they’ve reached a next level of musicianship in brutal bend of their ancient craft.

Formed in 2001 the folks behind Force of Darkness were more-or-less focused on amplifying the tradition of ‘I.N.R.I.’-era Sarcófago and Nifelheim-level attack during a time where far fewer musicians in their area were doing so, though we can count them in the ranks with Anal Vomit (Peru), Ammit, Chainsaw, and Slaughtbbath among a few others during this period of time. For a bit of misguided context, Chilean thrash became an obsession of mine during the early 2000’s and, in terms of online presence, most people I contacted mentioned these bands as “war metal” or just black metal at the time rather than the de facto black/thrash which works all the same. Anyhow, the first two demo tapes from the band ‘ReHELLsal’ I and II (later compiled as ‘ReHELLsals‘, 2013) were not widely available but their contents should not surprise anyone who is a fan of Bestial Mockery, Absu‘s second and third albums, and Desaster in terms of leaning into the heart of Teutonic satanic speed metal in terms of riff structures and voicing. It wasn’t until the release of the band’s debut full-length (‘Force of Darkness‘, 2006) where folks took notice of the band worldwide as both a contemporary of say, Deströyer 666 and a standout by their own merits due to a thrillingly violent, bestial attack reminiscent of ‘I.N.R.I.’ and the lineage beyond. This was maybe the most abrupt and extreme use of shocking blasts, violent changes, and rawest momentum-based riffing to date and it made for an unforgettable introduction to the band on my part. From that point on Force of Darkness had established the energy and the spirit of their music so, since then each release has either iterated on certain ideas or refined the riff quality and count.

From the bloody butchering of their debut ’til the supreme riff-crammed occult nightmare of ‘Darkness Revelation‘ (2010) Force of Darkness made the transition from a cool-ass underground black/death thrash band who were cult-hard to find in terms of physical releases to a great band that was mandatory listening for anyone even remotely obsessed with extreme thrash. If we keep that step towards more technical, refined old school thrash metal riffcraft in mind in the eleven years beyond there is quite a bit of strong precedence for what we receive here on ‘Twilight of Dark Illumination’ today, which varies their approach to pacing more often yet maintains the chaotic ‘bestial’ traits such as their signature slap-heavy drumming; The ‘Absolute Verb of Chaos and Darkness‘ EP back in 2014 introduced this general balance in rawer form and their split with Wrathprayer, ‘Wrath of Darkness‘, polished the ideal with even more classic heavy metal forms and slightly more readable production. Without losing their original essence, we can see Force of Darkness as even more traditional and more extreme than ever around 2019 (see: ‘Metempsychosis‘ promo EP) which now manifests in album-ready form here in 2021. As we account for the slow walk towards this third full-length, eleven years beyond the last, this wasn’t a matter of picking up the band again after a few years but putting in a decade of work to achieve something even more personally stylized than before.

If you’re not familiar with the band or don’t necessarily recall the subtle progression of their discography beyond a brutal, blazing fast spectre of psychic torment album opener “Retribution of the Crowned Chaos” shreds through all of those distinctive marks: Flattening blasts, wrathful vocal narrative, a satisfying high-pitched howl ~3:39 minutes in, and finger wrenching trill and tremolo heavy extreme thrash metal riffing. Beneath this high-energy hammering there are deeper layers of rhythmically expressed speed metallic melodicism as the central verse riff erupts into solo and fairly quiet bass guitar shredding nearby. In fact that’d been one of my first notes taken while spinning through ‘Twilight of Dark Illumination’, the bass performance is stronger than ever and often asserts itself with great purpose despite the crushing storm that Force of Darkness presents up front. The earliest example being “Absolute Verb of Chaos and Darkness” which you’ll note isn’t taken from the EP of the same name. The material here is all new though savvy folks who’d gotten their hands on the advance of ‘Metempsychosis’ will recognize “Sons of Hypocrisy” and “Metempsychosis” as two of the faster, more straightforward thrashers on the full listen. Side A shows us a more skilled heavy metal band in action, still delivering an ultimate extreme and the classic Force of Darkness sound.

As we reach “Genesis of Evil” at the halfway point of the album the true breakthrough of ‘Twilight of Dark Illumination’ begins to reveal as the band slows to a mid-pace while developing a late 80’s Sodom-esque set of riffs, this manifests as somewhat in line with what bands like Nocturnal Witch are doing these days with some second wave neoclassicism simmering nearby. More importantly the central break of the song echoes the arrangement of “Retribution of Crowned Chaos”, leaving us with a high point on the first half of the album which foreshadows the next level pieces that highlight Side B. If listening to the entirety of this album straight through, as all reasonable people should, “Choronzon’s Desire” will undoubtedly give pause as a slow and brooding ritual highlighted by declarative spoken statements and a direct lead-in to “Templi Serpens” which, when paired with the previous song, constitutes my favorite portion of the record if not only for how boldly outside of expected forms Force of Darkness has taken us. Beyond the spectacular satanic speed metal dramatism of these songs the fact that they’ve kept the riffs sharp throughout the ~41 minute run of the album thus far is impressive in this era of sub-half hour half-thrash records. With the grand finale, and perhaps best song of the lot (besides “Absolute Verb of Chaos and Darkness”), in “Darkness Shall Prevail” we receive confirmation that these fellowes are necessarily regressing to even more ancient sound and style simply because that musical standard is much higher in view of the mid-to-late 80’s extreme thrash metal reality. The heavily accented spoken declaration and bass-wrangling middle section of this final song was the wax to seal the pact of ‘Twilight of Dark Illumination’ and punctuated the complete listening experience in fantastic manner upon each listen.

In more direct terms, by slowing down a bit to focus on a higher standard of early extreme/heavy metal songcraft and performance Force of Darkness give us substance over brutal flash and chaotic distraction. ‘Twilight of Dark Illumination’ is the work of a smarter metal-minded coalition — Satisfyingly extreme and appreciably classicist at once, feeding their obsidian adrenaline directly into impulses for both mayhem and austerity to a finest result. The full listen may prove itself a psychotic blur to start but once acclimated to the sheer mountain of riffs available the keen black/death/thrash-attuned ear will receive the repeated stabbing it deserves. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Twilight of Dark Illumination
LABEL(S):Iron Pegasus Records
RELEASE DATE:October 13th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Black/Thrash Metal,
Blackened Death/Thrash Metal

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