Twilight Fauna back from foggy woods with rustic, dark sounds on new ‘Shadows of Ancestors’

Twilight FaunaSometimes I get about halfway through the week and I wonder in the morning how I’m going to pull it all together that day and get my work done. I always do, and generally once I’m on my feet, showered, and drowning in coffee, I’m ready to go and get done what’s in front of me. But yeah, I’ve got those days where I wake up completely unmotivated.

I’m not saying Ravenwood never feels that same way, but I’d have a hard time believing it. Ever since his one-man project Twilight Fauna surfaced four years ago, he’s been on a creative tear. His brand of lo-fi-washed, constantly morphing black metal always offers something new with each release, and over the course of five (five!) full-length efforts now, the music has found new and inventive ways to haunt and rivet his audience. The latest Twilight Fauna album “Shadows of Ancestors” goes into even stranger terrain but also brings plenty of Appalachian instrumentation into the scene, infusing his murky, cloudy black metal with a sense of foggy confusion that could have you grabbing at the walls for balance. It’s a disorienting collection of music, one that might not resonate immediately, but that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s an album you need to let sink in and that would behoove you exploring its every corner. Not everyone is going to find their way to the other side. Those who do will take a really interesting ride.

Twilight Fauna coverRavenwood (also of Green Elder), who handles all instrumentation and the buried-in-hell vocals, released his first album under this moniker in 2012 with “The Silence of a Blackening Abyss,” a record issued in limited numbers that was followed later that year by “The Grotesque Travesty of Creation.” Since then, Ravenwood has offered up a new Twilight Fauna release every year, with “Grief” following in 2013, and “Hymns of a Forgotten Homeland” arriving last year. Going back to the rustic, rootsy sounds Ravenwood brings to “Shadow” it’s not as if it’s a new twist for him. But that Appalachian element is even more pronounced this time around for the Johnson City, Tenn., musician as he adds dulcimer, tin whistle, and other elements into the mix. It creates a richer sound that can make it feel like you’re wandering through the woods, lost, with your ears clogged with water as you try to make out sounds.

“Helical Rising” gets things started with whistles calling out, followed by guitars charging and letting off steam. The growls are buried deep beneath everything, as they are throughout the album, and the track feels like a foggy, stormy excursion that leaves your head spinning. “Boring the Auger” opens with gentle acoustic strains, heading into a blurry electric wash and melodies ripe with emotion. The vocals crawl beneath the murk, sometimes sounding like hisses, as guitars ramp up toward the end, go wonderfully gazey, and disappear into the enveloping atmosphere. “Meadows Afire” fittingly opens with fires crackling, with an eerie calm setting in and the guitars boiling to life. The vocals slice through the bottom, with all elements spitting fire, the melodies feeling like they’re slipping through the ether, and later the body returning to rustic roots.

“Purging of Spring” is a well-timed song for listeners on this side of the world, as summer emerges, and the music here fits that scene very well. The tracks bursts open, with guitars chugging and a doomy glaze drizzling over the song. The track chars and churns, with acoustics later returning, with the whistles by their side and the colors continually get more color. The track rages back to life toward the end, acting like the final stamp of spring before sizzling hot sun starts to burn out foreheads. “Cave of Kelpius (Women of the Wild)” has an opening similar to a Primordial track (obviously a good thing) that has buzzing melodies and a trance-inducing assault that keeps the dream machine rolling. Growls are smeared on the underbelly, while up top, quiet moments arrive, bringing brief serenity, before another all-out charge. Each piece of the song begins to build to a crescendo, as loops of sound cause a hypnotic, enthralling finish. Closer “Coffin Nails & Apple Trees” is the longest cut at 10:01, and it takes its time setting the scene, with somber acoustics leading the way. Of course the song comes to life, with guitars stabbing and chopping, melodies spiraling into oblivion, and the song sinking into a fog, later ripping out of the other side. Riffs rain down hard, growls feel animalistic and pure, and the track comes to a cataclysmic boil that finally submits to quiet. The chirps of birds are the last thing you hear.

Ravenwood’s tireless work ethic and prolific output have helped Twilight Fauna grow at a pretty rapid pace. “Shadows of Ancestors” is proof of that artistic development, as this sometimes strange, often moving project keeps getting richer and more defined. It’ll never be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who do relish these sounds will find themselves immersed in a haunting place with rogue spirits showing you the way.

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