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Xasthur: Defective Epitaph

Xasthur: Defective Epitaph

Label:Hydra Head
Release Date:2007
Genre:Recording, Rock/Pop, Hard Rock/Metal

By Steve Erickson | Posted 10/24/2007

As a genre, black metal tends toward the cartoonish, so a casual listener could be forgiven for glancing at Xasthur song titles such as "Legacy of Human Irrelevance" and "Funerals Drenched in Apathy" and expecting nothing more than adolescent misanthropy. The snide liner notes--which, on previous albums, have complained about the influx of black-metal poseurs--contributes to that impression. The prejudice is unwarranted: Xasthur's music may be dark--its song titles certainly are--but it is abrasive without mindless aggression, even pretty at times.

Defective Epitaph is the most accessible album the one-man band has released so far, though no one would mistake it for Linkin Park. Recorded on 8-track, rather than 4-track, it finally features live drumming--albeit amateurish--from singer/multi-instrumentalist Malefic, rather than his customary drum machine.

As a result, Xasthur's production sounds lush and raw at the same time. Layers of guitar, keyboards, and cello are overdubbed into a distorted, fuzzy stew that recalls a lo-fi, headbanging take on shoegaze. The mix is ultratrebly, rendering Malefic's bass playing barely audible. His vocals ape death metal's customary tortured wolverine, with completely unintelligible lyrics. While usually evoking bleak moods, Xasthur has a surprisingly broad palette. As on "Memorial to the Waste of Life," he jostles with moments of sublime beauty and ambient passages. "The Only Blood That Pours Is Yours" contrasts grating vocals with majestic choral passages and cello. No idea if Xasthur wants to reach an audience beyond the "true" and "grim," but Malefic could follow bands such as Isis, Pelican, and Jesu to an audience beyond hardcore metalheads.

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