PREDATORY LIGHT – Death and the Twilight Hours (2022)REVIEW

“[] the rags of a poor man, who had died of the plague, being cast out into the public way, two hogs came up to them and having first, after their wont, rooted amain among them with their snouts, took them in their mouths and tossed them about their jaws; then, in a little while, after turning round and round, they both, as if they had taken poison, fell down dead upon the rags with which they had in an ill hour intermeddled.” Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron

The present day, and yes, still pestilential doom-ridden reality beset upon all in the form of viral rapture bears no such culturally valuable humanist solace comparable to that which we find in the old forgotten romanticism of classic literature, inspiring few if any great works or artisan leadership today. It is an absence of spirit which now marks the current era as profound but, for the sake of nothing more than the listless resignation of cowardice, opportunism and pitiable self-culling ache. Morality, social mobility, and the elevation of mankind may as well be the unseen velour padding for the dust-covered reliquary that’d house the fabled spirit of man at present, for here and now we futile prole worship Death in protest, and in place of any certain purposeful or passible existence. The serpentine glow of Santa Fe, New Mexico-based black metal quartet Predatory Light sparks in staggered reveal of four sets of eyes, piercing the frantic murk of these blackest endtymes with bardic treatment of the reaper’s gloom imagined in four parts. Agleam in morose, atrophied physic, ‘Death and the Twilight Hours‘ peers skull-first from a high place in presentation of a most tragedian quartet in rondo’d exit, a triumph cast over life whilst gazing down upon leagues of sorrowful collapse, grinning.

Formed as a fissured vision between biomes circa 2011, the eventual gather of Predatory Light‘s realization saw manifest of their first demo amidst an era of great appreciation for the obscure yet infinite dwell of groups like Head of the Demon, Cultes des Ghoules and Negative Plane wherein the mysticism of black, death and doom transformative groups of old (Mystifier, Mortuary Drape, et al.) translated well to the then deeper expanding reverb-chasmic realm of doomed and arcane black metal whorl. Extended pieces conveying vast and imposing bleakest landscapes meant their first demo tape (‘MMXIV‘, 2014) was well-noticed by trawlers such as myself but it’d been their split with Vorde the next year that’d had more folks recognizing ’em as more than a promising side project, notably incorporating a lead guitar focused approach which many had compared to the indomitable Funereal Presence at the time, a sound exactly to my taste per ‘The Archer Takes Aim‘ back then. In fact you’ll find me an enthused fan by 2016 wherein my best of the year list [archived here] included Predatory Light‘s metaphysically charged debut full-length (‘Predatory Light‘, 2016) alongside much of the praise I’d been gathering since hearing the first demo: “Think of the pure swamping evil of early Hellenic black metal acts by way of fifth generation occult-thrashing black/death, a beast capable of crooked bursts of speed and fittingly grimy atmosphere.” and yet this’d continue to feel like an understatement in hindsight with consideration for what they’ve developed beyond in ‘Death and the Twilight Hours‘ today.

Whereas ‘Predatory Light‘ invoked venomous speed and heartlessly cast, dogged black/death finesse in various stages of reveal for its finest points of profound statement this long awaited return for the project finds Predatory Light in feature of a different rhythm section, as far as I can tell fellowes sourced from maniac death sorcerers Superstition, as the space between great works has provided a bold reconfiguration, or, trimming of the textural minutiae that’d graced their debut down to the most profound and necessary voicing. More clearly writ, the lead guitar work featured on all of their releases in the past now becomes the major directive for the longform journeys taken, setting aside their 6-7 minute modus on the debut for the sake of longer and run-on phrases dominating the listening experience which now manifest as two doubly long features and two fully round, complimentary étude.

“The Three Living and the Three Dead” is the inspiring onus to start, the broad strokes of their bravado introduced and the resounding voice of Predatory Light at its loudest, most boastfully grand tarantella of death to date. They’ve not at all walked a long distance from the initial inspirations most would assume from the time period wherein they’d formed, ‘Et in Saecula Saeculorum‘ being the standard to overcome, yet we find far less (or, nil) speed metal appropriated choices in each album from this band, only the heavy use of trills for the weaving movement of their lead guitar melodies and similar use of effects to emphasize its prominent presence. Rather than try to escape the comparison to Nameless Void‘s spheres of influence (in this case, see: Funereal Presence‘s debut) I’m more prone to embrace the entirety of these rare forms as a listener and a huge fan of each example with some consistency, the differences are readily available to anyone who’d delve into each and there is nothing trite or halfway-formed about this group’s discography. Where ‘Death and the Twilight Hours‘ succeeds most heartily on its own terms is in a nigh psychedelic steadiness achieved despite the haunting, technique heavy roiling of their compositions which bear a certain progressive rock-sized ambition with rare refrain.

At their most impressive tilt Predatory Light barely take a breath while achieving their intended directive, this is most notable within the aforementioned opener and the equally enlarged title track wherein we find their impatient loom of ideas threading itself unto somehow entirely legible tangents that take clearer yet still dizzying shape within repeat listens. Whereas a lot of psych-black metal becomes an excuse for shapeless aversion to verse, chorus, bridge etc. there is yet a galloping heavy metal push and parcel behind each of these four songs. They do admittedly bleed together into one great big piece, threatening to make gimmick of the leads by the sheer glory of their feature, yet that voice becomes a dramatically rousing prose the longer it runs. Lead single/preview track “To Plead Like Angels” is a fine example of the lead guitarist’s use of singularly piercing run-on sentence (an animated guitar scale run) as a larger phrase woven into clear and persisting black/heavy metal piece, in this sense having more in common with Windir (no, not literally) than an early Tormentor tape. In this sense I’d eventually come to terms with Predatory Light having become an intelligent orator of the dark arts rather than a festering and sore beast in the murk, it is a fitting and earned transformation with consideration for the high quality of performance, arrangement, aesthetic, and sound design they’ve achieved herein.

Of course in my red-eyed rambling I’d not had the mind to champion the suggested theme of the album, which approaches the profound effect plague (or, any mass death event) has upon the affected masses, having forced the sentient among us within human societies to face their own mortality and react in kind, be it through spiritual terror, doomsaying, or within rationalizations of deserved suffering. Without a lyric sheet I can only assume that their narrative lines up with the dramatic reveal and illuminant wiles of the full listen, per past releases.

A familiar presence sustained, the spoils of transformation witnessed, and with newly ascended oratory mastery noted ‘Death and the Twilight Hours‘ manages to be a sickeningly repeatable and profound statement in rare form, wherein black metal finds its infinite ghoulish apparitions made flesh within graceful, arcane ‘heavy metal’ flesh. The immersion available here on Predatory Light‘s second full-length is of a ridiculous standard, an inescapably Sisyphean trod which manages an unearthly beauteousness in its reflection-heavy witness of descending times, urging our dissolution all the more as it peaks. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Death and the Twilight Hours
LABEL(S):20 Buck Spin
RELEASE DATE:May 20th, 2022

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