The most exciting music in American black metal today is being made by a collective of musicians who call themselves the Black Twilight Circle, and who combine for a dizzying array of line-ups under names like Arizmenda, Axeman, Kuxan Suum, the Haunting Presence, and Dolorvotre. Based in Los Angeles, the collective takes its inspiration from pre-hispanic cultures and, in solidarity with the Mexica movement, they reject terms like "latino" and "native American," and instead call themselves "Nican Tlaca," a Nahuatl phrase often translated to "we the people here," meant to refer to the indigenous population of the Western Hemisphere.
Black Twilight Circle's bloodthirsty music praises ritual sacrifice and the shamanistic exaltation of mind-altering drugs. The collective's vision of black metal combines traditional sounds and outré experiments, with Blue Hummingbird on the Left adding flutes and war drums to their instrumentation; others, like Arizmenda, churning out muscular, twisting 13-minute epics; and groups like Axeman hewing percussive BM anthems inflected with traces of '80s punk like GISM and Amebix. An intensely secretive group, the Circle's music appears in very limited editions, often on cassette; they favor off-the-beaten-path live performances, and until now they've given no interviews. They agreed to an e-mail exchange on the eve of their first East Coast tour, which brings them to Somerville's Starlab on October 4.
Volahn, the Circle's spokesman and its most prolific composer, says the group was founded while others around them fell into gangs and prison. "The early days were intoxicating hallucinations of violence, drugs, hatred, prejudice, struggle, and learning the ways of occult ritual," he writes. "Black Twilight is our means of limitless expression and the purest disorder. It is not something that can be expressed in a sentence or fully revealed in this interview."
There were earlier influences, too. "My earliest memories are exploring the ruins of Tecpán in Guatemala and being taught my culture by the elders in my family," writes Volahn. "Even at a young age, I had a strong spiritual connection with my culture. There's nothing that compares with living in LA — it's the survival of the fittest. Being brown in LA is hard, especially dealing with cops and immigration. Settlers on the land of my ancestors want to govern my life. Fuck white occupation of my sacred land! We are to be governed by our own people. I'm an indigenous revolutionary for my people and our struggle, and we're the true representatives of our culture today."
'THE PROPHET IS HERE'
Not long ago, Volahn says, he attended a rally where neo-Nazis, protected by a police barrier, marched freely through downtown LA until chased back to their cars by young Nican Tlacas wielding rocks and bottles. "When one of their cars wouldn't start, we pummeled them," he writes. "In these moments, intense violence and hatred are all I feel."
Despising traditional venues, Black Twilight bands have played in illegal squats, forests, and even caves. "I see what we do live as what my ancestors did," Volahn writes of his live performances. "It's a ritual and is to be taken seriously. It means going beyond yourself and your humanity, and it's important to do rituals to give praise to our gods. It shows we're not studio musicians punching in every time we fuck up — it's pure skill of the highest level honed for more than 10 years. I've sacrificed everything to be the voice of my people. The prophet is here, blessed by the supreme deities."