Written by Kep
>Predatory Light – Death and the Twilight Hours
>New Mexico/Washington, USA
>Released May 20, 2022
>via 20 Buck Spin
Here’s what makes Predatory Light such an interesting black metal outfit, in my opinion: I don’t find their sound icy, raw, grim, desolate, or any of those usual adjectives. Instead there’s a strange heat, the creeping warmth of infernal fires just below, while serpentine riffs spiral and twist in unnatural winding patterns as though possessed by supernatural force. Is it black metal? The ear test says it obviously is, but it’s more than just that, an exercise in the entrancing with measured intent and a malevolent eye.
Death and the Twilight Hours is the second full-length release from this American four-piece, after 2016’s self-titled debut. There were several years of silence out of them after that first record, while the members were busy with their other projects: Superstition, a death metal group comprised of the same four players, put out a debut LP in 2019, while guitarist K.M. (also of Ash Borer) and frontman L.S. made additional waves in that year with their black metal project Vanum’s sophomore album. You’ll notice the overall level of quality in those other bands is quite high, and Predatory Light is no different. The songwriting, technical abilities, and production on display—the latter handled by Andrew Oswald, who also engineered all of the albums mention above, plus releases by Mortiferum, Vital Spirit, and Utzalu—are all top-notch.
The first thing you’re likely to notice in Death and the Twilight Hours, if you’re like me, is that there’s very little tremolo picking, at least in the sense you might expect. Predatory Light eschews that traditional aspect of black metal, but not the sweeping sort of approach that often goes with it. Their riffs are long, seemingly endless things that feel both grand and macabre, weaving and winding and circling, replete with turns and trills. K.M. and L.S. achieve a lightly distorted tone in their guitars that has plenty of sinewy body but feels clean, which lends itself well to those melodic riffs. The melodies worm their way into your ears, as devious as the serpentine images they conjure. L.S.’s throaty screams, while damn satisfying and imposingly performed, carry a bit less musical focus in relation to the guitars.
The album is comprised of four tracks over 38 minutes, a comfortable runtime that feels about perfect. The pacing helps quite a bit: opener “The Three Living and the Three Dead” and the title track, placed third, are both well over ten minutes in length, while “Wracked by Sacred Fires” between them and lead single “To Plead Like Angels” at the end are in the 6 ½-7-minute neighborhood. It’s highly intelligent album design and I couldn’t imagine them working as well as they do in any other order.
“The Three Living and the Three Dead” is the cornerstone of the record, an opening track that showcases everything that makes Predatory Light a force. It contains just a massive amount of extremely unique riff ideas, all of which develop and mutate and transition from one to the next and back again and then to a new idea seamlessly. It’s the kind of songwriting that makes a nearly 14-minute track flow by without ever dragging, beckoning the ear from riff to riff, every facet sliding smoothly together like the pieces of an infernal puzzle box. And don’t think just because it flows so well that there aren’t standout moments; setting aside how much I love the main couple of riffs, I was also captivated by the brooding doomy passage around four minutes in, and the triumphant return of a pair of snaking riffs from near the beginning a bit after eight minutes. There’s a brief false ending later, too, that leads to some sweet mid-tempo melodic ideas.
I probably don’t need to say this after gushing over them already, but the guitars are the stars of the show here in Death and the Twilight Hours. They are utterly hypnotic, weaving captivating spirals and beautiful patterns just in front of you at every turn. Every now and then you get a passage where the two play in harmony, and every time it’s a damn moment. But there are some flat out surprises, too, like the extended thrashy beat and shred just after 6:30 in the title track; that damn solo was so scorching I think it took my eyebrows off.
The drumming of D.M. and the low end of bassist D.J. make a formidable rhythm section that works as a strong foundation for those guitar stylings. Both show off impressive technique and their joint efforts create a truly full sound that keeps Predatory Light sounding as epic as possible. D.J. in particular has some extremely cool moments in “To Plead Like Angels”, and I honestly wish the album let him step to the forefront a little more, although it would be hard to find much space amongst the guitarwork.
The only flaw I can find in this album is a product of one of its strengths. It’s a side effect of the hypnotic, serpentine riffage that travels so smoothly from moment to moment, developing and changing, always fitting seamlessly into the next passage: the tracks can be hard to differentiate when it’s all so similarly mesmerizing. It’s tough to call it a fault, some listeners might even find it desirable, but I figure it’s worth mentioning.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Death and the Twilight Hours is a spiraling journey ever downwards toward evils unknown. The guitars will mesmerize you with their constant writhing, serpentine motion while the ever-flowing, ever-evolving songwriting pulls you close and takes you along. It’s clear that Predatory Light has created an experience that’s unique in the scene, and I highly recommend you hear it.