Review Summary: Circle jerk.
For those out of the loop, the Black Twilight Circle is a collective of artists putting forth some of the most forward-thinking music within the extreme metal community. Showcasing many different artists spanning several different genres (many projects sharing members like some elite Satanic musical orgy), the trust has put out a multitude of releases in the past five years ago, almost single-handedly raising the black metal profile of the southwestern United States as the best in the world. While not all of its rather prodigious output can claim to be worth anyone’s time, the gems littered throughout more than make this clan worth paying attention to for fans of the sordid and unrelentingly lo-fi. Adding to this list of gems are two of the most recent additions to the Circle, Muknal and The Haunting Presence, paired together here for a most satiating taste of swirling blackened death metal chaos.
Muknal get things going with a brief passage of ominous chanting and clanking background noise before ripping into the flesh of the split with furious blasting and suffocating riffing. Building on a foundation of complex and dissonant death metal and coating it in a unique hellish muck, “Hecatombs” finds tumultuous guitar lines fused with pulsing effects pedal experimentation into a memorably horrific beast. The pair of tracks featured on the split showcase Muknal’s signature sound established on their debut demo, only more succinct and focused, and this tightened songwriting is further spotlighted with improved production over that freshman endeavor. Impious’ vocals manage to be sharper and more piercing than ever, while the drums are notably fuller and much more engaged with the rest of the mix than previously. Rarely can an outfit boast the technicality on display here and emit any semblance of atmosphere, but Muknal do so quite convincingly. But as quickly as the unforgiving onslaught came, it dissipates back into the eerie noise from whence it came, leaving way for something new and wicked to emerge.
The Haunting Presence half finds itself a bit more derivative in approach but every bit as enjoyable as its companion pieces. Sinister blackened death metal a la Blasphemy and Archgoat is offered up with plenty of infectious grooves and gratifying tempo changes. But each well-crafted piece proves with carefully manipulated dynamics and hellish energy to be far from cheap imitation. The more primitive nature of the two THP tracks serves as a welcome counterpoint to the smothering miasma of their predecessors, with Ghastly Apparition cooking up some deliciously satisfying riffs amidst the wildly ferocious vocals and tight drumming. And here again, the recording treatment of these songs is a marked improvement over the project’s previous work and makes a big difference in the overall quality. And once again, the onslaught subsides to the familiar overarching sample, ending the brief but fulfilling ride once and for all.
With both acts seeing production refined and beefed up while still being far from overdone and songwriting undergoing similar fine-tuning, this split is a fine addition to the Black Twilight Circle canon and the highlight of each young project’s career thus far. The four tracks of blackened death metal mayhem are as strong as are likely to be found these days, and even as different as the two bands are, it really comes as no surprise they’re in the in the same family of like-minded malignant progenitors.