For years, Panopticon—and more specifically, the band's 2012 classic Kentucky—has been the gold standard for what we consider to be Appalachian black metal. Even after founding member Austin Lunn packed up and moved north, we still tend to associate the band with verdant hills and coal miners' ghosts—even as the man behind the music itself has moved on. However, as the years went on, another Appalachian band stepped up to occupy Panopticon's vacant woodland throne, and have now reached a point where their right to it is unassailable: Twilight Fauna.
Twilight Fauna has been active since 2011, but 2017 is shaping up to be the band's breakout year. The project may share geographic ties and a certain naturalistic sensibility with Panopticon, but founder and multi-instrumentalist Paul Ravenwood is dedicated to forging his own path. The prolific solo project-turned-duo (Ravenwood has been joined by Slaves BC's Josh Thieler on drums) will release its seventh (!) full-length, The Year the Stars Fell, on March 24 via the band's own Ravenwood Recordings. The album follows a 2016 full-length, Fire of the Spirit, as well as a split with Pensive Ceremony under the guise of Ravenwood's solo acoustic project, Green Elder (we streamed it here).
Ravenwood's Appalachian roots take center stage in Twilight Fauna, a project he describes as intensely personal. The Johnson City, TN native incorporates acoustic old-time folk melodies, bluegrass picking, and clean, airy vocals into clouds of atmospheric black metal (or goes full-on bluegrass on the banjo-garnished traveler's song "Across the Blueridge"). The end result is a study in Appalachian darkness and universal melancholia, writ in shades of green and black.
The connection between bluegrass and black metal is something Ravenwood has spent a lot of time pondering, as both a fan and a living representative of the seemingly unlikely fusion of the two. As he told us in a 2015 interview, "Before the 1920s, when bluegrass really caught on, this was music that was sung in the hollers that people lived in. People would get together and everyone would have a good time, but it wasn't something for mass consumption. And really, for the most part, they were singing about their lives. To me that directly correlates to what black metal is. It's so much a personal thing that people do. It's not necessarily meant to sell a product; it's people telling stories of who they are. At least, to me, that's what it should be."
Preorders for a variety of formats (including beautiful colored vinyl) are live now, and you can listen to The Year the Stars Fell in its entirety below. (Random preorders will include a small jar of meteorite dust, too, which is the coolest idea for band "merch" I've ever heard).
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