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Xasthur/Leviathan - Split CD

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Artist: Xasthur/Leviathan

Album: Split CD

Label: Battle Kommand

Review date: Apr. 2, 2006

Fuck, is this depressing music. The sadness is not slow; it quickly reveals itself – in organ weep, skin-shearing shriek, fragile guitar figures. Tones are suffocated by their own muted dissonance; percussion either pops like fatty meat over a hot fire or comfortably rides along, a dead gull seized by the surf. Remarkably, for all the ponderous despair dealt by this split, it’s an experience that gains in gravity with repeated listens.

Malefic – the man behind Xasthur’s curtain – drops anchor straight through the void, slathering on pastes of sound with his guitar’s measured regurgitation, an oily mass of clay-caked earthworms shocked into light with a torch’s unforgiving wattage. “Telepathic with the Deceased” – a bonus rehearsal track from the album of the same name – raises storms of Shieldsean guitar skree, bloodying the Ouija Board with peeling planchette scribbles. “Conjuration of Terror,” the most potent and dynamic of Xasthur’s lot, sling-shots stone rain’d beats over thick drapes of static electricity; vocals are preternatural howls, dextromethoraphan’d loose-limbed psychoses; unkempt nails scratching away invisible insects. The sadly defunct Velvet Cacoon [sic] may have done this sort of Ketamine’d creep more convincingly, but Malefic’s latest efforts – the Xasthur/Nortt split and retching “vokills” on Ursus Horribilis’ Black One – show him painting lifelessness with an even paler pallor.

If listeners’ fatigue hasn’t set in by the time Leviathan’s tracks come up, the ears will be lifted of their labor, as Wrest – the man behind Leviathan’s curtain – suffuses Prog sensibility with Black Metal, lending already epic song structures a load-lightening elasticity. Leviathan’s dynamism – an itchy trigger finger for elaborate and nimble changes – sets the music’s quality out in the forefront of the majority of current Black Metal ensembles. The progressions that Wrest alone is able to conceive recall the likes of peculiar bedfellows Celtic Frost and the Allman Brothers, with thunderous rhythm sections and searing guitar work. The track “Where the Winter Beats Incessant” – a Judas Iscariot cover – in particular is stunning with its persistent use of triumphant and martial riff; a simultaneous nod to Eastern Block anthem and defunct Ukrainian Heathen Metallers Hate Forest, this piece slogs on for nearly 12 minutes, all cymbal flourish, black lunged vocals and the magnificently recycled riff, issued again and again; strong, dense sheets of snow over the bare, broken backs of a bloodline severed long ago. Leviathan’s two other tracks, “Unfailing Fall Into Naught” and “The Remotest Cipher (Beside the Last Breath Vanished)” take Varg Vikerenes’ Hawthornean “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” as template and ups the amperage, razing buzzing guitar walls studded with digital drums and screech-to-sigh vocal exhalations.

May good fortune shine on Azentrius’ Battle Kommand Records for this re-issue, originally put out by the great Profound Lore Records, one of the more formidable splits in recent memory.

By Stewart Voegtlin

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