:AJNA:

VOLAHN

'Aq'ab'al' digi cd with 5 color printing and booklet.

Tracklist:

Najtir Ichik     
Halhi K'ohba     
Bonampak     
Quetzalcoatl     
Koyopa     
Nawalik

Press Quotes

  • "Fucking rules. The sheer velocity and complexity of the guitar and drum work throughout these marathon compositions should drop jaws. Most bands who have their shit this locked down also shell out of a glowing production meant to highlight their shimmery talents. Not Volahn. Aq'ab'al clatters around in a brash, almost punk-flattened mix, boosting the album's mean hostility without giving up an ounce of musical impact. Ever tried to hug a seething beast made entirely of knobby elbows and bristly chins? Aq'ab'al feels a lot like that" - Decibel [8/10 rating]

  • "On the surface, Aq’ab’al is an almost hysterically chaotic mass of black, fractured noise, in the best sense. Song structures take second place to expressive, almost sitar-like contorted lead guitar and primitive percussion - all the more incredible for being the work of one man. In fact, though 100% black metal, the music on songs like ‘Najtir Ichik’ has a blurred, colourful, kaleidoscopic effect, vividly embodied in the vibrant Aztec-themed cover art. Parallels for Volahn’s music are hard to think of; there is a hint of the vicious minimalism of a band like Goat Semen at its heart, but also the wilful obscurity of the classic early work of France’s Légions Noires. The nearest comparison would perhaps be the Japanese one-man project MANIERISME, although the atmosphere achieved is entirely different. Everything about this album is impressive, but perhaps most of all, the way that that Aq’ab’al manages to be simultaneously dissonant and intensely melodic. One of the best and most different USBM albums these ears have heard in a long time" - Zero Tolerance [5/6 rating]

  • "Volahn mastermind Eduardo Ramirez eschews the traditional black metal tropes of Satanic imagery on his newest album, Aq’Ab’Al. Instead, the Southern California native pays tribute to his Mayan ancestry with progressive black metal jams that can leave a listener physically and emotionally drained by their conclusion. Interludes featuring traditional Mayan instrumentation are but a mere respite from the primal rawness of what Ramirez brings to the table. The end result is a powerful black metal effort that leaves metal fans with a very substantive listening experience" - LA Weekly

  • "California’s Volahn is the founding and most well-known band of the Black Twilight Circle movement, a movement residing upon its own label, Crepusculo Negro. An interesting intersection between low-fi black metal and Mesoamerican occult themes, the Black Twilight Circle can be most readily sampled on the titanic compilation TLILTIC TLAPOYAUAK, but the heart and soul is really Volahn...A one-man musical entity, Volahn consists of a fast combination of furious guitar work, blastbeats, a few keyboards, melodies, and rasped vocals that periodically segue into acoustic guitar and spoken-word passages that reinforce the Mesoamerican themes. The acoustic passages reveal Volahn’s fascination with Spanish classical guitar, a welcome element to one of the more artistically interesting new bands on the USBM scene" - About.com [4/5 rating]

  • "Well, this album has made 2015 begin with an unexpectedly strong start! Volahn hail from California, and belong to the shadowy Black Twilight Circle – arguably USBM’s very own version of Les Légions Noires. Musically, you can hear the French influence seething clearly in the forefront of their sound. However, this (their second full-length album) uses Mayan occult theology as a staple for their six rituals (hence the bright and interestingly different artwork), allowing them to offer up something a little leftfield in comparison to your regular satanic monochromatic coldness...Musically, the album kicks of exactly how I’d expect it from a member of this murky and secretive black metal movement: raw, yet brimming with melody and full of interesting ideas and out-of-the-ordinary arrangements. The production is low-fi, adding to the rawness but also boosting the album’s fascinating character – and it’s its character which really carries its charm throughout. There is something fundamentally different here, perhaps described best by comparing how THE CHASM have such a stand-out ‘different’ sound in their field of death metal. This is an album wrapped in mysticism, chiming and ringing with ancient lore, acerbic guitars hissing hymns as bellowed vocals spit forth historic tales like some archaic shaman off his tits on salvia, spying demons in every corner. Occasional acoustic passages and calming woodwind brings respite from the manic fizz of distortion and heartfelt screaming, also adding to the overall authentic feel to this excellent album...For me, the highlight of the songwriting is how Volahn create their melodies. Of course, there is the usual riffage and licks to build momentum and create simplistic earworms, but my favourite is their usage of synth to bolster these, with guitars ringing seemingly out of kilter with the battering drum work at times yet never sounding bad or out of time, such is the strange way they’re used to roll over the rhythm section independently, spreading tuneful echoing beauty and frothing acidic hate in equal measures. Epic in its scope, and powerful in its delivery, Aq’ab’al is a truly stunning musical set-piece which needs to be heard to truly understand what it’s all about...Having only dipped into the world of the Black Twilight Circle previous to my discovery of Volahn, but I will certainly be investigating further from now on if albums of this clarity and quality are commonplace in the movement. Extraordinarily good black metal, conjuring mysticism effortlessly thanks to its impressively deep roots in lore" - AveNoctum.com [9/10 rating]

  • "Volahn creates a very unique approach to melodic black metal in the fact that he adds Latin elements in the manner of beautiful flamenco pieces that you just wouldn’t expect. But there’s more to it than just that, as the guitar leads on this record consist of literally amazing passages that seem to be as artistic as they are technical, which makes for an experience that is not only crushingly brutal, but also quite spirited. There are many melodic black metal acts out there, but none of them seem to be quite as evolved as this one. This is a record that you’ll definitely listen to over and over again, for the intrinsic and complex passages that fill what are, in actuality, rather lengthy tracks. Aq’ab’al is one of those records that feels much longer than it is, but for good reason, and you’ll soon find yourself enveloped and captivated by the melodies, rock solos, and respectable black metal performance that lies within this recording. It makes sense that the flamenco acoustics are here, because it really wouldn’t make sense for him to add the Norwegian-style folk melodies to a record that wasn’t recorded in Europe. It’s this Latin approach that makes the band stand out among others, and it feels authentic. Volahn put his own spin on melodic black metal, and in the end, he has created a one of a kind masterpiece of an album. Definitely get your hands on this one. It’s phenomenal" - TheGrimTower.com [9/10 rating]

  • "Volahn play a ferocious form of South American black/death metal, but as you can guess from the cover image, with a very strong vibe relating back to the historical roots of the culture of Central America. Imagine running blind through the black heart of the jungle pursued by jaguar-skin clad warriors who seek to capture your people to sacrifice them to their gods. That Mayan/Aztec atmosphere heavily pervades the music on offer here...For a record so brutal, Aq'ab'al is interesting in that it also has a number of ambient, progressive, and naturalistic touches, such as classical guitar, keyboards, vocal effects, and some kind of panpipes. These don't impact on the brutality of the record, but complement it well, adding to the esoteric feel of the whole. These touches also contribute strongly to atmosphere and quite simply make the record a more stimulating and enjoyable listen...These days, it seems harder and harder to find a truly original-sounding voice in the black/death metal scene, so acts like Volahn are vital to keep the scene alive. Another homerun for Iron Bonehead!" - Eternal-Terror.com [5/6 rating]

  • "This album is quite strange to me. I don't really know what the song titles mean; perhaps it is my ignorance, I am aware of Volahn roots and the fact that his heritage is Mexican and that's totally cool - I mean, I have been to Mexico and I love it!...Most songs are quite long and well arranged, with lots of variations throughout. Volahn manages to play all the instruments but the drums with such perfection, and I really like the Mexican flute - it gives another dimension to the songs...Excellent vocals, harsh and deep - couple of the songs that I found some lyrics that are sang in Spanish, I could understand that the themes are not about Satan; other than that, they are about the planet and the things that are here, and that's pretty cool...As I have said before, the production is not top-notch, so listen to this album with an open mind and you may find your own way towards within. The front cover is excellent and I guess reflects well what this album is all about, and at the end of the day, it is well worth checking out!" - Metal-Temple.com [8/10 rating]

  • "Wow, what a pretty, pretty album cover! Dare I say, one of the prettiest black metal covers I have ever seen. Also a useful signpost, leaving us in no doubt that this project is associated with the so-called ‘Black Twilight Circle’ from (um, I think) Southern California, for whom Mayan and Aztec mythology is a recurrent motif. Indeed, Volahn himself is a core member, having also featured in approximately 368 groups associated with the same scene. Anyway, this was one of the projects that stood for me out on the recent Worship Black Twilight compilation: no mean feat, because that was a double-album filled with obscure gems...The sound on Aq’Ab’Al is highly distinctive, and demonstrates quite a particular vision. Tracks are is (usually) fast, loose, and spontaneous-sounding. There are lots sudden jerks characterising song structures, intent on prodding and jabbing at the complacent listener. We also get lots of jangly treble guitar, which reminds me a little of NEGATIVE PLANE, and it gives a sense of cackling whimsy to many of the riffs. This is compounded by the quirky, some-might-say ungainly character of the latter. They are often bizarrely elongated, zigzagging awkwardly, frequently seeming about to trip over themselves but for the cementing power of Murdunbad’s excellent drumming. So see, for example, opener 'Najtir Ichik': a clammy and feverish tirade of twanging guitar lines which disperse suddenly and bloody-mindedly into sweatily melodic sections. Or 'Bonampak,' with its ungainly time signatures and haphazard melodic shapes. There’s also a synth, which can give a strangely graceful, almost light feel to tracks like 'Halhi K’ohba'...Worth a listen" - MetalReviews.com

  • "Having spent the better part of the last thirteen years establishing itself as a veritable force in black metal’s underground, the Crepύsculo Negro (Black Twilight Circle) label’s more recent widespread recognition is a testament less to media savvy and more to an unwavering work ethic. While the Long Beach-based imprint is shrouded in the standard black metal mystique, the clout here isn’t derived from boogeyman antics or tired melodramatic form. Of the impressive bands on the label’s roster, the one-man act Volahn inhabits an exclusive place that’s all the more remarkable given the quality of his labelmates...Coming six years after his debut with 2008’s excellent Dimensiόnes del Trance Kόsmico, the fruition of Volahn’s sophomore effort comes at a time when black metal fandom seems more inclined to piss and moan about any irrelevancy that happens to come within our direct line of sight. When not busying ourselves over what noble fuss quest to undertake, however, we can be capable of shutting up long enough to listen to actual music rather than the sound of our collective groans. Taking that into consideration, Volahn’s newest offering provides just such an occasion for black metal fans to take note...One of the strangest and most unintentionally hilarious things that’s come about in more recent black metal discussions is the belief that the use of melody is either a tool of hackneyed talentless goons or the vilest bastardization of an otherwise un-besmirchable genre. Founded on the very principle that nothing is sacred except the nothingness, black metal’s most rewarding forms have always come by way of what are assumed as creative risks only by those incapable of making them. To others, these characteristics are a natural point of distinction in a genre that oddly touts its sameness like a merit badge...Much of what provides the characteristic sound of Volahn’s Aq’Ab’Al is found by looking at how uncharacteristic the music tends to be in the context of straightforward black metal. Eduardo Ramírez, the man behind Volahn and BTC, is as well-versed in the exposition of his own cultural heritage as he is in serving that aesthetic due justice with the compositions themselves. That means including melodic digressions not in the arbitrary sense of hunting for a hook but to pair alongside the vile with the pleasant, the repulsive with the enticing. The music champions duality not as a compositional means to an end but as the sound’s most integral component...Volahn’s latest speaks to that universal duality that tends to escape many well-intentioned musicians of the extreme variety. Throwing two opposing elements against a tremolo backdrop does not a brilliant black metal song make. The six songs here are representative of a focused and creative patience on the part of Ramírez, whose use of melodic contrast on such tracks as 'Bonampak' and 'Nawalik' is remarkable because it doesn’t simply serve the song; it provides the composition its most formidable strength. That sense of balance is a clear point of distinction for Volahn’s exceptional work here and easily places Aq’Ab’Al in rare company for black metal releases this year" - Steelforbrains.com

  • "The history of the Mexica and pre-Hispanic South and Central America is absolutely fascinating. Primal stories of war, intrigue and betrayal, all steeped in the blood of those sacrificed to appease brutal Gods. It’s stirring stuff, and it’s this refreshingly unexplored heritage that mainman Eduardo Ramirez seeks to tap into with the latest Volahn offering...Aq’Ab’Al weaves together a lot of different strains of black metal, with nods to very traditionalist Scandinavian stuff, mournful Cascadian melodicism, modern abstract dissonance and even folky acoustic noodlings, often within the same song. All of this makes for some very interesting compositions...Drumming duties this time round were handled with aplomb by Juan Cabello, late of ARIZMENDA, whose well-executed shepherding of transitions and structural changes make Aq’Ab’Al’s schizophrenic structures much more tolerable than they might be. The drum production, too, is excellent, with a very overhead-centric sound that describes the drums as a kit in a room, but not at the expense of clarity, with every nuance of Cabello’s playing clearly audible. The rest of the mix, too, is nice, with bright, brittle guitars underpinned by a warm, rounded bass tone that is audible without being intrusive. The dynamics are allowed to breath, too, with the acoustic parts especially being uncompressed and pleasantly unpolished...Aq’Ab’Al is ultimately a very good album that is only really let down slightly by a tendency to smash riffs into each other rather than allowing them to flow. Ramirez clearly has no shortage of good ideas, but perhaps needs to look at combining them in more elegant ways. Nonetheless, this release is worth your time" - OneMetal.com

  • "Really fits the mold of raw, dark, and epic. Volahn belongs to the Black Twilight Circle, a collective of black metal artists from the West Coast of the United States. They are masters of the stygian raw kvlt metal and release some of the most anticipated and sought-out albums in the USBM scene...an explosion of epic indigenous black metal. Influenced by a native tones and mysticism, this album takes the listener to a world of pre-colonial South America. What I like about this album and also from the bands of the Black Twilight Circle is their unique approach to black metal. Volahn takes the lore from his ancestry and brings to light the tales of Aztec and Mayan mysticism. While Satan is a good medium for black metal, it seems to standard of a topic now. It is a welcoming change for US black metal bands to look into their own culture for tales of darkness and woe. Even the title, Aq’ab’al is from Mayan astrology, meaning the darkness before the light. It represents a renewal and change. This album is a change from the repetitive themes and a renewal of what is to come from USBM...From beginning to end, the album is well done - exciting. Aq’ab’al encompasses dark and enchanting melodies. The album is a ritual in itself, with well-written guitar and emotional Spanish lyrics. Most of the tracks are over five minutes, but the production and cadence of the music keeps the listener engaged. The album summons the spirits of the Jaguar Warriors and high priests of Mesoamerica, keeping the tradition of Volahn and the Black Twilight Circle...an album about a journey. A journey into the darkness which will result in an overwhelming enlightenment. Filled with a hedonistic ritual sound, which is both relevant and groundbreaking in a USBM album. I appreciate and welcome more music to come from the Black Twilight Circle" - EchoesAndDust.com

  • "The comings and goings of the somewhat mysterious Black Twilight Circle may be shrouded in shadow, yet the collective creative output of Crepusculo Negro records shines as brightly as the California sun in which its originators bask. Ideologies and intentions aside, the circle have put out some storming releases since the label’s inception six years ago, not least due to the talents and efforts of BTC ambassador Eduardo 'Volahn' Ramírez. Volahn’s self-titled project is certainly one of the preeminent facets of the label’s roster, with 2008’s Dimensiónes del Trance Kósmico setting the standard for the caustic cosmic chaos that now surrounds the collective...Far flung from the grim and frostbitten kingdoms of Scandinavia, California’s sun-kissed landscapes offer an entirely different breath of inspiration, and this in turn forms a part of what makes Volahn’s music so strikingly superlative. As excruciating as it is to listen to something that sounds like it was recorded inside a vacuum cleaner, black metal fans probably won’t be too put off, and honestly, acclimatisation works wonders here. There’s a lot to digest amidst Aq'Ab'Al’s turbulent existence, but if one constant prevails, it's the frenzied barrage of raw black metal fury and intense guitar melody, meticulously crafted through Volahn’s skilled instrumentation...Serious concentration is required at first in order to pick up the melodies (not to mention the drumming) that are obscured by the lo-fi production (although the songs available via Bandcamp appear to be of superior quality), but once these elements materialise, the strength of songwriting and musicianship becomes strikingly clear. An hour-long journey into some violently vitriolic black metal, Aq'Ab'Al finds itself reverent and inquisitive rather than menacing, with a deeply intriguing quality to the melodies that could almost be medieval in style if Volahn’s passion for his heritage and indigenous culture wasn’t so well documented. The majority of the longer compositions end with moments of subdued serenity, fueled by strong cultural influences and native traditions that revolve around Volahn’s ancestors and the Nahuatl language. When not enveloping itself in such introspection, the album is perpetually uncompromising, maintaining a keen sense of striking melody whilst simultaneously splitting your head in two with unabashed black metal savagery...Despite the Black Twilight Circle’s nebulous existence (and indeed reputation), there's something about Volahn's music that's just downright enjoyable. This can be attributed to a coalescence of many aspects of the music: the pugnaciousness and penetrating harshness, the cleverly forged melody, and the considerable inspiration taken from his surroundings and from his Aztec ancestry. Clearly, this formula is one that works fantastically well, producing a sound that is both vitriolic and full of intrigue, the addition of exceptional musicianship and songwriting cementing Aq'Ab'Al as one of the key black metal releases of the year" - CVLTNation.com

  • "Volahn continues to proudly wear his Aztec ancestry on his sleeve with Aq'ab'al, an album of rare beauty if one hath but the wit to penetrate it. As a founder of the Black Twilight Circle, you're pretty much guaranteed some damned interesting black metal stylings, and Volahn doesn't disappoint. From the sprawling, disjointed (though subsequent listens will remedy this) opener 'Najtir Ichik,' I was totally sucked in by the album. Strings of melodies whirl and wheel about and the drums are blistering - yet despite the contemporary nature of this stuff, there are definite echoes of traditional black metal here...You get hushed whispered sections and moments when all the madness drops away, leaving a glittering piece of acoustic guitar or indigenous flute. Indeed, Volahn's work is littered with these utterly mellow sections that are reminiscent of flamenco guitar (though I wouldn't dare to call them so) and what I believe may well be huilacapitztli (Google tells me it is so...) conjuring jungles and jaguars and all manner of powerful mythos...The entire album shows the spirit of black metal (or perhaps the bones of it?) fleshed out with Volahn's vision and take on the genre. You get the spasmodic runs on the guitar and blasting (see 'Halhi Khoba'), but you also get these wonderful moments of restraint, as shown by the majestic style of 'Bonampak.' It's black metal put through Volahn's unique filter, and I'm massively impressed. Despite there being only six tracks on here (and most of them push past the seven- and eight-minute mark), there's no trace of flabbiness and the album's duration is spot on. The tracks are definitely enhanced by Volahn's heritage with the Aztec influences and the black metal balanced exceptionally well - neither overwhelms the other - and I'm loving it. A sweet start to 2015, I say" - MetalAsFuck.net