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Xasthur - Defective Epitaph (9/10) - USA - 2007

Genre: Black Metal
Label: Hydra Head
Playing time: 75:03
Band homepage: Xasthur

Tracklist:

  1. Soulless Elegy
  2. Purgatory Spiral
  3. Cemetery Of Shattered Masks
  4. Malignant Prophecy
  5. Oration Of Ruin
  6. Legacy Of Human Irrelevance
  7. Dehumanizing Procession
  8. Funerals Drenched In Apathy
  9. Worship (The War Against) Yourself
  10. A Memorial To The Waste Of Life
  11. The Only Blood That Pours Is Yours
  12. Unblessed Be
Xasthur - Defective Epitaph

The headphones rested comfortably on my head as I gently nodded along to the ever spiraling music of Malefic’s XASTHUR. I lay there subdued and in a death-like tranquility when suddenly I fell. I fell through the mattress and through the 3rd floor of my building, down through the second and on to the ground. I lay there for only a few seconds when the hard tile began to crack and give way to the soft underbelly of the dirt and foundation. I was being forcefully pulled into the ground and all hope was lost as the air I was breathing soon dwindled and a nauseating sense of suffocation crept into my stomach. The light was slowly being replaced by darkness and the soft ground now changing to hard rock and rubble. The scratches and cuts were numerous and painful as I took the last of my breaths. I was soon holding in the small amount of air I had left in my lungs and waiting for the sweet relief of death when suddenly I felt an inexplicable sense of out-of-placeness and the pressure of my lungs and brain ceased. I as now floating in a void of Black and Grey. There were no life forms around me, only the low rumble of clashing cosmos that quickly erupted into a force of such sonic might that I believed would not only take my ears but my mind and body with it. Such aural assaults ended and I floated in the void with a sense of deep fulfillment and wonder. It was in these last few seconds of silence that I blinked and was back in my bed with the lights off and I had noticed that “Defective Epitaph” had ended.

Such is the power of music my friends. When it is done right, it can take you from one plain to another, cocooned in its brilliance. When it is done wrong it can vomit you into a world of disharmonious judgment and throw in your face the harsh reality of imperfection and failures. Luckily children, this is music of the former variety, a music that when properly applied can transport you from yourself and assimilate you into the unraveling madness yet ultimate reward of transcendentalism. Welcome to “Defective Epitaph”.

Wow, that was a mouthful wasn’t it kids?

Yeah it was, and I don’t really care if you didn’t read that or not. I know you have other places to be and other people to see and old Sam here just isn’t cutting it for you anymore. I understand. No, really I do. I’m just that good you see? I get you and that’s what makes this relationship between you and I so special. And it’s that love between us that spawned this little gem of a review. Review of what? Why, XASTHUR’s “Defective Epitaph” of course! Now, after all I just said there really cannot be much else to say right? Well yes and no, no in the fact that I wrote a lot and it got a strong message across. Yes in the fact that I did not say much about the music. So let’s do that ok? Come on, don’t be shy, I’ll hold your hand as we walk around.

Beginning with “Soulless Energy” you will notice something different. The complete lack of keyboards, the lack of a build up, the in your face BM of XASTHUR’s past and most importantly: real drums. Yeah that’s what all the hullabaloo is about, using real skins as opposed to those new fangled tech-gurgle-syntho-drums you kids tinker around with now. Yeah that technology’s scary stuff and you took away my drums, who knows what else you could take away eh? But watch your backs because these drums are raw, and I mean raw. They are played sloppily at points and they are loud and deep, which is how I like my drums. I’ll take sloppy and personal drums over perfection through wires any day.  However this release isn’t all (relatively) fast and in your face, as this is XASTHUR and Malefic is not always down for a good mosh pit now is he? So on the slower end of the spectrum we have a whole slew of depressing yet beautiful, ugly yet captivating and profound and profane compositions that are guaranteed to blow your mind. If you don’t blow it out yourself. 

The highlights. Well there are many highlights. Take “Dehumanizing Procession” a keyboard driven powerhouse of a depressive new wave of music. The overwhelming sense of being outside of life and merely an onlooker as you drearily walk from destination to destination is frightening and prevalent in this hymn of death. The following “Funerals Drenched In Apathy” is more melodic, but in a “Oh My God I Think I Am Going To Die In This Spiraling Élan Of Bleakness” kinda way. Other quicker and more harmonious contributions include “Worship (The War Against) Yourself” which quickly moves from passages of Doom to the halls of Fire and Painful Deaths. “Malignant Prophecy” contains some extremely fast double bass work from Malefic and also conveys the sense of being torn apart by a pack of revenants who are looking for vengeance and the ultimate sense of dread.  

The whole album is much like a grim portrait of the human soul, and after the somewhat disappointing effort of “Subliminal Genocide”, “Defective Epitaph” is a welcome return to form and variation that Malefic built his reputation on. Malefic uses his paintbrush and canvas to paint a picture of black and grey and just when you believe you are safe from the unending terror of nihilism Malefic appears, in the listener’s room with his paintbrush and begins to cover the listener’s mind with the paint of absolute horror, the colors of a bleak future. Be wary, for this ground you tread on may fall from beneath you, leaving you with nothing but a gripping sense of loss and the ending torture of Malefic’s genius work.

(Online December 8, 2007)

Sam Becherer



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