Due to the addition of a certain musician, Twilight’s third and final album, III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb, is arguably the most anticipated black metal release of the year. Joining the American black metal collective for their swansong is Thurston Moore—he of Sonic Youth fame. Moore’s sacred status alone should summon the attention of folks familiar and unfamiliar with black metal’s exclusionary ethos, yet whether fans of indie rock (or whatever name you want to give Sonic Youth’s noisy pop music) will take anything from III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb seems unlikely. That’s not to say that Moore’s signature playing isn’t audible; quite the contrary. But unless you’re acclimatised to the austerity at the cruel core of black metal, you will be left bemused and horrified, gripping your copy of Daydream Nation for dear life.
III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb has built its anticipation not only by the inclusion of Moore but inadvertently due to the fact that the album has missed previous release deadlines. The lengthy delays have been a result of the circumstances which have led its creators through extremely difficult times in their personal lives; with divorce and serious legal charges weighing heavy over some band members. And, for better or worse, it audibly sounds as if those personal problems have bled into the music made by the final incarnation of Twilight: Jef Whitehead (Leviathan), Thurston Moore, Neill Jameson (Krieg), Stavros Giannopoulos (the Atlas Moth), and Sanford Parker (Minsk).
Dissonant and diseased black metal, heavy on ear-piercing industrial noise and coagulated sludge, is the band’s modus operandi for III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb. This is a slight stylistic shift away from the shades of post-punk which coloured the black of 2010’s Monument to Time End. Therefore, the result of this collaboration is a murkier collection of songs sourced more from the hellish oblivion normally cast by Leviathan than, say, Nachtmystium’s last three albums. (Nachtmystium’s Blake Judd, who was a part of Twilight since the band’s birth in 2005, and who has been the source of his own recent scandals, was ejected from the band during the album’s creation with his contributions to the record removed.) However, as a complete piece, III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb is a wasted opportunity. While there are some moments of torturous music that consume you whole, for the bulk of the album, Twilight is lost in a chasm of dull discordance.
With its queasy groove and scabrous vocals, “Lungs” appears to be a fine way to introduce the final line-up of the band. But, besides the odd variation made by Parker’s layers of scalding noise, “Lungs” wheezes along with very little in the way of real energy or aggression. The same problem infects most of the music on display; disappointing considering the wealth of excellent material each member has released individually under different guises. The aptly-titled “Swarming Funereal Mass” languishes in its own slow and smothering tempo, which wouldn’t be an issue if the band added some variation to the song. Instead its strict reliance on one central theme is as tedious as it gets—especially considering how it’s dragged out by the band, who eventually run out of ideas. The following song, “Seek No Shelter Fevered Ones”, is a mild improvement. Its stark, bass-heavy probes are pierced by fizzing noise and rhythms that move beyond plodding tempos of the previous song. Nevertheless, the flaws in Twilight’s design are again revealed as “Seek No Shelter Fevered Ones” progresses. The band relies too heavily on a non-descript riff that goes on indefinitely through one dimension, and consequentially each member drowns amidst the emptiness of this opaque jam.
The reason why “Swarming Funereal Mass” and “Seek No Shelter Fevered Ones” (both of which make up a large portion of the album’s running time) appear to drag on so unenthusiastically in and outside of themselves is because Twilight showcase the full potency of their combined chemistry on the second track, and album highlight, “Oh Wretched Son”. A height never to be scaled again on III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb, “Oh Wretched Son” is a masterful amalgam of each players’ strengths at full volume. Swirling, atonal guitars hiss venomously and Wrest’s drumming (which continues to improve) lends a loose, warbling feel before the first blastbeat of the album sprays forth the main groove—which is loaded with the most passionate (memorable) vocals of the album. The layers of Moore’s shrieking guitars frazzles the bucking groove, pounded into shape and used sparingly to great effect by the whole band, and the dynamic arrangement heaves and concedes to retain the listener’s concentration right the way through.
Such focused vehemence is sadly a rare occurrence as far as this album goes. Swamped in feedback and riddled in static, with bad vibes emanating off each song, III: Beneath Trident’s Tomb is a draining listen overall. But it’s not the cathartic kind of “draining”; it zaps your energy because Twilight have slammed the tomb shut and are hostile to all visitors, leaving a disconnect between the listener and the songs outside of “Oh Wretched Son” and “A Flood of Eyes”. The latter also utilizes the marked styles of each musician with plenty of fluency. The time during which the album was conceived was the ideal occasion to channel all the negativity and create something alive and dangerous. Even though personal turmoil could have fed the music’s intensity tenfold, it instead seems to have clouded judgements, and more often than not the songwriting lacks serious direction and clarity. As a consequence, Twilight’s final foray ends with a bitter yawn rather than a raucous roar.
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