Xasthur: All Reflections Drained
Hydra Head Records (2009)
This is one seriously depressing record. No surprise really, if you’re familiar with Malefic, A.K.A Scott Conner, who makes up the one-man Black Metal band Xasthur.
I first discovered Xasthur on Sunn O)))’s Black One album where he contributed tortured screams to two tracks. Rumour has it that the Sunn O))) boys shut Malefic into a coffin with a microphone to record his terrifying performance on that album’s closing number Bathory Erzsebet. I’m a sucker for that sort of corny bullshit, so I couldn’t help but venture a little further into the world of Xasthur.
From there I became obsessed with the 2006 album Subliminal Genocide. At the time I was working in a job I fucking hated and the discordant, seasick and utterly bleak music on that album was a fitting soundtrack to my days cooped up in a tiny cubicle surrounded by a ‘team’ of people I wouldn’t piss on.
Xasthur isn’t your typical Black Metal act. Firstly, he lives in Los Angeles, rather than Northern Europe. Secondly, there are no riffs, no blast beats and limited use of double-kick drums. The tempo is generally a slow, plodding death march but don’t be fooled into thinking this just another Doom band. Xasthur couldn’t give a fuck about power chords or achieving a ‘crushing’ sound. These records are about layers of un-tuned guitars playing nonsensical melodies that crash into, rather than compliment each other. It’s about lazy synths stabbing out of the darkness and Malefic’s tortured, mutantly distorted screams buried so far down in the mix that he becomes just another part of the white (black) noise. This is more Abruptum or Funeral Moon, than Immortal or Darkthrone.
Malefic records all this in his bedroom, on cheap equipment that creates a murky, solitary and claustrophobic atmosphere. Then he distributes it to the world via tape cassette, split singles and occasionally on cd through some label or another.
The bleakness has been amped up quite a few notches on All Reflections Drained, which is largely an instrumental album. The addition of swirling pianos and other acoustic instruments thickens up Malefic’s already dense sound and increases the claustrophobia ten-fold. I’ve only managed to sit through the album twice from start to finish because it’s just too over the top. Song titles like Released from this Earth and Maze of Oppression might place Xasthur in the Emo camp, but where those pretty-boy bands with sleeve tatts and expensive haircuts are acting all sensitive just to get girls, Malefic actually wants you to slit your wrists.
P.S. steer clear of Xasthur’s 2007 album Defective Epitaph, it’s crap.