The twin pillars of Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light represent the extended dissipation of the energy and tension first formed on 2008's The Bees Made Honey in the Lion's Skull. These are "coming to rest" records – both recorded at the same improv session, so one work, basically – whereas Bees Made Honey was more of an attempt to channel the unease, the distress, of the early drone recordings into a different musical palette.
What makes them difficult to address on that basis is that there is little by way of self-contained rising/falling action within the combined hour-and-forty-five minutes that constitute parts one and two… it's basically an extended winding down, the kind of hazed out noodling Crazy Horse might indulge in after Neil Young has left the studio and the coke wears off. Part II has the slight edge over part I, but only due to brevity; each have the same sense of evocative, ponderous resignation, but with each track built around a central motif, by the time the expansive title track wraps up on Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I what seemed mere inchoate possibility an hour before has already dissipated into exhaustion.
Probably just as well, then, that Dylan Carlson chose to wait a year between releases. Titling them parts I and II may give the impression that they were intended to be listened to sequentially, but I find it more likely just an acknowledgment that they were recorded during the same session… sort of a preemptive defense against criticism that there is no actual artistic development between the two releases. Nor would you expect there to be.
Another way to have avoided that sort of criticism would be to have released both volumes as a double disc set a year ago; the fact that Carlson chose not to do so seems to acknowledge that, in a single sitting, this can be too much of a good thing. Despite the minimalist percussion, the sustained guitar notes and complementary cello, there is an existential potency inherent in these sessions that can be draining in large doses, crypto-head music instrumentally adept enough to invite intimate inspection, but to do so is to gaze into the abyss… with all the Nietzschean implications that follow.
8 out of 10
Out now on Southern Lord.