Records aren’t always intimate portions into the creators’ lives, especially when it comes to metal. This genre normally is more concerned with death, destruction, devils, social unrest, and topics such as that, because it’s pretty natural to make angry-sounding music about those areas. When we delve into more personal realms, that when the real-life juices can flow.
Paul Ravenwood’s Twilight Fauna project has spent time reflecting on his Appalachian home and the music that comes from that region. He treated us to a nice helping on last year’s opus “The Year the Stars Fell,” and he follows that up with a new seven-track helping “Where Birds Sing My Name,” an amalgamation of black metal and folk music that can draw comparisons to Panopticon, at least on the surface. Ravenwood long has etched a rough, gruff patch over the course of his project’s previous seven full-lengths (all of those since 2012), not caring about precision and polish and instead going from the gut. He’s again joined by drummer Josh Thieler (of Pittsburgh’s Slaves BC) as well as a slew of other players who handle banjo, fiddle, and additional vocals, to make for what amounts to an around-the-fire display that lets loose spark and ash, rising up among the mountaintops.
“As Autumn Turns to Spring,” based on “Tiger Creek” by J.P. Mathes II (who handles banjo on this track and elsewhere on the album), begins the record with banjos sprawling, violins licking the dust off the windowsills, and a jubilant feel that aims to bask in Appalachian celebration. “Crooked Road” follows, a lo-fi dose of creaky black metal that features drums blistering, and the fierce storm hanging overhead. Ravenwood’s harsh growls make bones shake, while the melodies wash over with a gaze, hissed wails cut through, and melodies and pounding bleed to the end. “November’s Cold” trickles like a cold stream, as Kendal Fox adds her singing to the mix, conjuring a lullaby-style trance. Hazy guitars rush in, while cymbals are crashed, and then the awakening comes in a deluge. Wild cries and wrenching screams mix, lulling you under the surface of the water. The track goes unhinged, releasing animalistic spirit as it sprawls and brawls into the shadows.
A raw take on Clifton Hicks’ “Crying Shame” follows, adding a quivery view into mountain roots, and then we’re into “Chasing Shadows” that starts with clean guitar and piercing singing. Guitars bubble as the pace gains steam, and then the music heats up and smothers, while harsh growls and sound squalls do battle before a cold spell strikes. From there, the tempo is tugged back and forth, while the drums blast, and a grisly burst of hell carries the track away. “Reflections” has a properly somber start, floating gently and getting fuzzy, before the song explodes with colors. Emotionally rich guitars bleed all over the ground, while a static screen arrives, and open veins pump their vital fluids. “The Path Home” closes, as birds call, banjos are plucked, and gruff and rustic singing puts the story to bed.
Twilight Fauna’s emotion and guts constantly are on display, and with “Where Birds Sing My Name” not only is a rushing second chapter on the band’s homage to home, it’s an ideal next step from “The Year the Stars Fell.” There’s a charm in the band’s music where they lean to roughness and avoid polish, as it gives what they do an authenticity you can feel. This is a heartfelt album that lets you have a glimpse into Ravenwood’s world and gives you a chance to connect to your own.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/twilightfauna
To buy the album, go here: https://twilightfauna.bandcamp.com/album/where-birds-sing-my-name