A very interesting recent development in the American black metal scene is the establishment of the Black Twilight Circle (BTC). This movement sees a number of black metal bands, based around the Crepusculo Negro record label, putting out limited releases and collaborating on different projects. The movement is led by Volahn, and features a fair amount of sonic diversity, dipping into death metal reals, for example with The Haunting Presence, or a proto-black metal/crust approach that Axeman is undertaking.
In a sense the whole endeavor is reminiscent to the Black Metal Inner Circle (BMIC), featuring most of the Norwegian black metal bands of the ’90s, and even more Les Legions Noires (LLN), a similar communion of French black metal bands, such as Mutiilation, Belketre and Vlad Tepes. BTC sees bands sharing members, a practice very common in LLN, and also addressing the Mesoamerican history and culture, with the Native American and Aztec influence playing a big part in BTC members concepts, similar to the influence that the Scandinavian mythology and pagan view point had on the BMIC.
Shataan is one of the bands belonging to BTC, and after a raw demo in 2011 and a four-way split, Desert Dances and Serpent Sermons, with fellow BTC bands, Volahn, Arizmenda and Kallathon, they return now with their debut full-length, Weigh of the Wolf. In terms of sound, Shataan owes a great deal to the ’90s black metal wave, something that is also apparent in the production angle of the record, but they are able to expand on this, with some very peculiar additions.
The foundation of the record lies in the old-school black metal approach, with the lead work bouncing between different bands of that time. From the spiderweb-like texture of the Mayhem guitars in De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, and their twisted and dark tone presented in a subtle and controlled manner, to the animosity and primal instinct, along with the in-your-face attitude of early Darkthrone releases. The twist here is that most of the vocals in the record are actually fairly clean, and Shataan present a very interesting addition to the primal and dark black metal tone. This also ties in nicely with some of the most epic side of black metal. Emperor‘s furious black metal/pagan tone from Anthems to The Welkin At Dusk comes to mind, and the more grand moments actually craft a scenery not unlike the mid-period of Bathory.
All the name dropping might make it seem like Shataan are just rehashing the glory of the ’90s black metal scene, but that is simply not true. Sure, the elements of these great bands are all there, but Shataan’s take on and mix of these influences is able to bring forth something innovative. What is more, there is a fucking flute in this record, and it does play a big part in the band’s vision. When it first appears, it swiftly changes the scenery from the black metal territory to an unbalanced folk realm, and at that time I thought that this was all the flute would be doing in the record. But surely enough, they have proven me wrong. “Leave Behind” integrates the flute in the black metal parts, or sees to the rise of the atmospheric quality of the album. Shataan are fed from that sound, appearing more furious or more atmospheric in the presence of the instrument. It is not just an additional texture to the music, but rather an intrinsic part of the band’s sound. It even acts as the gateway to a more Americana setting, with the folk interlude in “Inst. In E Minor” which sequentially leads to the complete folk tune in “Night Comes Along.”
Shataan provide a great topography of the early black metal scene, taking elements and influences and mixing them to produce a coherent result. Their bravery in including more diverse instrumentation, and the full integration of those in their sound, leads to very interesting results, making Weigh of the Wolf a very promising start.