Twilight Fauna is the solo black metal project of a character named Ravenwood. I have usually heard of the project falling under the atmospheric black metal banner, but based only on his latest release, Shadows of Ancestors, a better classification would be ambient black metal, as this album has much more in common with a stripped down Lustre than Wolves in the Throne Room.
There is a cinematic grandeur and stunning beauty to the six long tracks that Twilight Fauna offer up on this release. Pressing play immediately immerses you in rolling hills and breathtaking natural landscapes. A track like "Boring the Auger" is a perfect example, as strummed chords slowly crash gently over an ethereal base melody like waves against the rocky coastline. Twilight Fauna manages to strike a perfect balance between light and dark, bringing the “twilight” in their name to bear in musical form. It’s this balance that makes the Shadows of Ancestors stand out and helps prevent their music from becoming too one-dimensional. The album maintains a slow almost funeral doom pacing with an emphasis on repetition. It's no journey to the stars; instead it remains firmly rooted to the earth and soil. It’s distinctly beautiful, despite being based primarily around swaths of distortion and distant howls - the perfect comedown after a long, hard day.
There is an intangible brilliance at work as Ravenwood manages to weave sublime tapestries of melody with droned-out fuzz. It’s like a meditation soundtrack for the disturbed black metaler’s mind, providing a soundtrack for your next moonlit walk through barren fields or city streets. In fact, barren is a perfect way to describe this album. You really won’t find any instruments that stick out - no guitar lines or drum beats to draw your attention or break your trance. Even when the music shifts, like the wistful acoustic passage in ‘Purging of Spring’, Ravenwood repeats the movement for so long that its initial impact fades away. This is both the album's greatest asset and biggest challenge. While it allows the listener’s mind drift off, it also means that there isn’t much to grab hold of for the short attention span generation. Multiple plays later I am still discovering new parts, not because it is so complex, but because I had drifted off through those sections on previous listens. The other sticking point for some will be the vocals. When done well, as in the ‘Meadows Afire’ the harsh vocals add an extra texture to the music and emotional depth to the song. Other times, the vocals seem tacked on, like ‘Boring the Augur’, where the distant, hollow howls have little to no impact and end up dulling the overall power of the song, when it would be much stronger as a fully ambient, instrumental piece. Luckily, this is just a minor gripe, as the real star here is Ravenwood’s ability to craft enthralling, delicate musical landscapes for listeners to get lost in.
Nine times out of ten an album like this would not connect with me, but this hit all the right notes - building a melancholic but somehow hopeful ambiance on the back of a fairly standard atmospheric black metal template. It is the album’s ability to make you relax and drift away on crashing waves of distortion that makes it worth your time. Next time you want to escape the shackles and mendacity of daily life, give Twilight Fauna a try.