The Perverted Evil of Ancient Dynasties: An Interview with Black Twilight Circle
Plus stream a pair of songs from the collective's new compilation
The Black Twilight Circle, based in Southern California, has often been referred to as the American answer to Les Légions Noires, the mysterious French black metal collective that produced Vlad Tepes and Mütiilation, among others. Led by Eduardo “Volahn” Ramirez, BTC has produced an armory full of limited cassettes that are some of the most bewildering American black metal out there. Groups often feature the same members, as anyone who’s seen BTC bands live will attest, but not all the projects sound alike. Volahn is Ramirez’s main project, intensely personal and driven by hate, heritage, and melody. Arizmenda takes on the depressive black metal sound and stretches out the misery as far as it can. Axeman, obviously, carries more of a crust punk influence. Blue Hummingbird on the Left sounds more militaristic; they’re an uncompromising force live. The Haunting Presence sees the collective moving into death metal, spearheaded by a person only known as Ghastly Apparition, but the blackness still remains. That’s just scratching the surface. What unites all the projects, aside from the close relations of the members, is that they all do what black metal does best -- transport you to another realm through headphones or stereo, disembodied from the outside world. The Circle is both a testament to black metal’s global reach and a death rattle to complacency.
BTC will release the compilation Tliltic Tlapoyauak on LP and CD September 2 through Ajna Offensive, and it will showcase new songs from previously establish BTC groups and new legions. Check out new Axeman and Blood Play tracks and Ramirez’s comments on BTC and the comp below.
Noisey: How did this compilation come together? How did you narrow down the tracks for consideration?
Eduardo Ramirez: Tliltic Tlapoyauak was conceptualized to debut our new bands and direction. All bands contributed one track that was recorded at black twilight studio by myself with assistance from the circle. Tliltic Tlapoyauak, which translates to Black Twilight in nahuatl, was materialized with excessive consideration. I created Black Twilight to distinguish us from the rest of the black metal scene at the time. Regardless of who interviews us or who listens to our music, we will maintain our purpose and never compromise.
What was/is the standard for being accepted into BTC? Is there an initiation process?
We have never accepted demos as we operate in secrecy. The point is not just to play music, we are serious in the studio and on stage about our music. Devotion made it possible for us to release our music and tour independently. Everyone is expected to push their weight which led to a past member being kicked out. Musical enlightenment came from much sacrifice and moments of isolation, a decision that has given comprehension to create music organically.
Quite a few of the BTC are your own or feature you in some capacity. Overlap between members is also pretty common. What drives the need to have several different projects and have a tight-knit unit?
Creating different bands came from having different musical ideas and lyrical perspectives to express. Every individual in our circle has their own solo outlet. The native elements in our music has given us purpose creating a tight-knit brotherhood. A big influence was Xibalba from Mexico who I have had the honor of meeting resulting in a mutual respect for each others work. There are also native bands who use foreign influences like WWII imagery/ideology to represent pre-hispanic culture. Let it be known here and now that we do not associate with any traitors of that nature.
Volahn has been your main project throughout. What is its significance to you?
Volahn is my personal solo outlet for expression that began April 6, 2003. The path of Volahn today is one that is deeply into the ancient dynasties of Kaqchikel, Kiche, Bonampak, Tikal, Palenque, Quiriguá, Chichen Itza, Yaxchilan, Teotihuacan, Tenochtitlan, Tollan, San Bartolo ruins among many others. Its significance to me is that is has become my way of expressing every sense of my being musically, lyrically and visually. The most intense moments of Volahn are yet to come.
Volahn features lyrics in Spanish, and it's pretty uncommon for American black metal bands (or any black metal band, really) to sing in a non-English language. How is this important for your art?
Spanish was my first language, the majority of our descendants today speak only Spanish because of colonization. I communicate the traditions of our culture in spanish to my people who have become sterilized by modern spanish society.
Aside from this comp and new tracks from Arizmenda and Volahn, this comp has been the most activity from BTC in a while. What accounted for the lack of activity?
Tliltic Tlapoyauak took a long time to record, we put immense time into all aspects of the release. I consider Tliltic Tlapoyauak to be our greatest accomplishment to date. It put in perspective all the years of hard work and everything that was sacrificed in order to be able to execute this historic release.
Was BTC inspired, if at least in spirit, by Les Légions Noires?
Musically we are inspired by the 90s Norwegian black metal scene, LLN, BBH, Polish scene, Southern Tyrants Circle from Australia, Hellenic Greek scene, Brazilian scene and many occult black/death metal bands from the 80s and 90s. We captured perspectives from all these groups and materialized our vision from it. All these influences were stepping stones to what the Black Twilight sound is today. When i created Ashdautas with Yagian (Odz Manouk) in Long Beach, CA, we were both writing material together atop cliffs overlooking the ocean. I remember playing my guitar 8+ hours everyday immersing myself in learning how to write esoteric music. Music is universal regardless if I don't agree with a bands ideology, I can still be influenced musically.
Axeman, in my opinion, is one of the more notable BTC projects. Obviously, given the name, there's a crust/d-beat influence, which makes it stand out. What was the genesis of exploring these influences? Do you plan on doing anything more under that banner?
Amebix is a big influence, I created Axeman as a continuation of Amebix style fused with our style. Axeman album will be recorded 2015 at Black Twilight Studio.
Axeman also has this weird solo tone for the guitar leads. How did you achieve that?
I recorded those solos on the spot with a few phrases prepared before to construct the solo. The 80s sounding execution was intentional. The tones I create on the guitar resonates universal chaotic elements.
Blue Hummingbird on the Left is among the most formidable of the BTC bands, especially live. How does this group fit in with BTC?
BHL is its own entity among our bands that speaks of the ancestral Mexica war god through war metal music and lyrics. BHL continues the native traditions of Tenochtitlan and will soon manifest a split ep with Volahn and full length album. Being able to grasp the aesthetics of our Mexica ancestry with my brothers of BHL to express the sacred doctrine in utmost respect means everything in my life. Mexica visionaries and heroes like Cuauhtémoc who fought to his death defending our people from the foreign parasites gives us honor and strength to hold down our culture the same way today. Mexica Tiahui !!!
This comp has stuff from new projects like Acualli, In Lakech Ala Kin, Blood Play, and Cempopoloah. What can you tell us about them? There doesn't appear to be much information out there.
The new bands continue the tradition of BTC instilling their own distinct approach. Acualli is the first Black Twilight band to be created by a female. Acatlán Coatlicue conceptualized Acualli and writes music for the band. Acualli translates to perverted evil in Nahuatl. Blood Play is a more direct dark metal band influenced by the great Bethlehem while still retaining the BTC sound.
BTC has ties to hardcore and punk -- I remember seeing BTC bands at Chaos in Tejas in 2011 and 2012. How has the hardcore community embraced you?
Over the years I have met and shared the stage with Amebix, Bastard, Deviated Instinct, Disclose, Doom, Crow, Riistetyt, Varukers, Forward, Subhumans, Isterismo, etc. We have a large underground following. Framtid to me are living legends today creating a wall of noise madness that crashes barriers in extreme music.
Part of the appeal of BTC was tied in with the resurgence of cassette culture. What sort of value did putting out material on limited tape runs have for you? Is this comp meant to be an entryway into a part of metal that seems difficult to access?
We have kept the tradition of limiting our tapes and plan to do so in the future. Having different extreme metal inspirations resulted in creating bands that exalt those influences.
What has BTC meant to you over the years? Is it your life's work?
The Black Twilight Circle has given me the opportunity to devote my life to music. Outside of music i study my native ideology which has given me identity. We are able to do what we do because of those that support us, we are nothing without our fans. Surrounding myself with my life long brothers creating music has brought me enlightenment beyond what any normal life could ever give me. Tliltic Tlapoyauak is my life's work but not the end. Focus and ambition has cultivated my spiritual dominion in all its glory to sustain itself long after I'm gone. The monuments (songs) I've created will forever howl in the cosmos as the twilight of night emerges from darkness to radiate the light of our sacred supreme deity...