Metal is steeped in tradition. The dark heart of the genre came to life when Toni Iommi struck the “devil’s note” opening Black Sabbath’s debut album, and the subgenres that grew from those roots play faster, slower or more spastic than what the ancestors established. Enthusiasts of the genre are obsessively passionate as defenders of the faith regarding what is metal and what is not. However, it is the influences brought by other musical genres that have kept metal vital over the past 50 years. It’s also one of the things that stood out with Ash Borer, the band Kyle Morgan played in before lending his six-string talents to Predatory Light.
Ash Borer was one of the forerunners of the modern American atmospheric black metal scene, taking the vibe of post rock and mixing it with the dark buzz of black metal. They brought in new colors that painted a picture of deserts rather than frosty northern forests. Predatory Light retains a fraction of this atmosphere, while remaining a black metal band. The difference is that most of the atmospheric sound comes not from the guitar sound, but from the reverb-heavy mix, resulting in a dark, cavernous sound. Yet the guitars gallop back to the hallowed days of earlier metal traditions. Guitar harmonies and melodies are the driving force, even when set back in the shadows.
It was halfway through listening to the band’s second album, Death and the Twilight Hours, when the influence of Mercyful Fate and Dissection became so clear that there was no way for me to hear them. Admittedly, these are two of my favorite bands, so if a band is going to wear their influences on their sleeves, then they have excellent taste for who they are inspired by. They play guitar riffs that weave a romantic darkness with the aggressive hooks of thrash.
There’s something tangible about the darkness that Predatory Light wields. While they may not be followers of ancient evil, they display several strengths in exploiting aesthetics, one of them being their devotion to not living off a regular diet of blast. beats. They use bursts of speed that are inserted throughout, but the double bass is much more common. And I, for one, agree with the genre’s slowly fading second wave of black metal addiction to blast beats. Rather than just plunging you into a hypnotic lull with tremolo guitar, they have a greater range of dynamics that causes them to sink into an almost neoclassical vibe.
Predatory Light does not rely on a songwriting formula, other than the emphasis on guitar harmonies rather than heavy riffs. They tend to stick to a melodic theme and build on it, not being fond of big hooks or choruses. Instead, they rely more on their high dexterity scores, with which they accelerate and descend the stick. So much so that parts of the guitar even remind me of the early days of Iron Maiden. There’s no triumphant gallop into battle, just a charge towards dark castles where vampires might hide. You get that feeling without over-the-top musical theatrics, just creepy chord progressions that wink in the direction of doom, even if they top 120 BPM. “Death and the Twilight Hours” is the band’s most accessible song, even without an anthemic chorus, and it’s not until the final song, “To Plead Like Angels,” that Predatory Light gains the kind of momentum that blasts them into a tempo more common in contemporary black metal.
Generally, Death and the Twilight Hours is a love letter to metal lore, one in which the production’s unique rawness will always appeal to Mayhem fans while paying homage to Ye olde metal.
Label: 20 bucks tower