Black metal is usually known to look upto Satanism, for a dark, brooding and bloody subject matter. Satanism in black metal has been exhaustively used to the point that its now rare to see any black metal act sway away from it. With our human history filled with so many examples of dreary, cold tales, these bands need only look at our past for the inspiration they crave. That is exactly what Eduardo Ramirez a.k.a Volahn did. A part of the Los Angeles, California based black metal cult, The Black Twilight Circle, Volahn recently released his second full length titled ‘Aq’Ab’Al’ on Iron Bonehead Productions.
On first listen, Volahn’s approach to the genre sound all too familiar with ultra lo-fi production, blistering tremolo riffs and blast beat drumming. But on paying close attention to the details, his innovation shines through. Volahn takes inspiration from his own heritage and looks towards the ancient history of central America for his subject matter.
Volahn not only pays homage to his heritage through lyrics, but he also manages to fuse the influence into his music. He manages to meld dreary melodies with the storm he conjures up with his guitar. These melodic guitar lines almost sound like a distorted and dissonant version of a Spanish Flamenco guitar. Though my description sounds odd, Volahn manages to seamlessly blend it with the some second wave worship. Unlike a traditional second wave band, the music doesn’t give a feeling of cold dreariness despite the shrieking tremolo guitars. The flavor of the music leans more towards mysticism.
The homage to the ancient doesnt end with the melodies, and it is predominantly expressed towards the ends of the tracks when the clean acoustic guitars are brought in with the occasional accompaniment of traditional central American instruments. As engaging and innovative as the album is, it’s not an easy listen. The production is a bit too lo-fi for comfort and as a result, it is impossible to make out what is going on in certain sections of the tracks. The bass guitar is completely lost in the mix and the vocals sits comfortably below the guitar and drum assault.
It’s such a shame that such a well written black metal record is marred by bad production work. I like my black metal raw, yes, but this is raw to the point that its incomprehensible. The chaotic sections of the songs, of which there are quite a lot, sound like a mish mash of random elements thanks to the quality of production.
If you can get over the quality of the sound, ‘Aq’Ab’Al’ is a smartly written black metal record that sticks to the roots of the genre while also managing to set itself apart from the overcrowded black metal scene.