posted on 2/2006 By:
Unbelievably grim, depressive Black Metal from two of the most prolific artists in the U.S. scene.
There’s a lot of ground to cover here folks, so throw another log on the pyre and get comfy…
The two men that make up Xasthur and Leviathan have provided fans of Black Metal an unbelievable amount of material in the past eight years. From 1998 to today, Malefic (Xasthur) and Wrest (Leviathan) have birthed a staggering 34 releases between them; 8 split albums, 10 full-lengths, 13 demos, and 3 best-of’s. Add to this their various side projects - Twilight (also featuring Azentrius of Nachtmystium, Hildof of Draugar, and Imperial of Krieg), Lurker of Chalice (Wrest), and Sunn O))) (both Wrest & Malefic provided vocals on Black 1) – and you’ve got a pile of material that easily rivals bands that have been around for more than 20 years. To say these two are busy-Black-Metal-beavers is an understatement…they’re fucking prolific.
This particular split originally saw the light of day in November of ’05 as a vinyl only release from the good people at Profound Lore. The album sold out very quickly, leaving serious fans with the unsavory option of paying upwards of $100 to eBayers in order to quell their hunger for the material. Until now…
Thanks to friend (and fellow U.S. Black Metaller) Azentrius’ self-run record label, Battle Kommand, fans finally have the opportunity to hear the material without lining random eBayer pockets with their hard-earned cash. Not only that, but the new format boasts 4 bonus tracks to further stoke the fires of want and black desire; 3 from Xasthur, including an amazing cover of Katatonia’s “Palace of Frost”, and 1 from Leviathan, a cover of Judas Iscariot’s “Where The Winter Beats Incessant”.
The Xasthur side of the coin:
The first seven tracks (clocking in at about 34minutes) follow Malefic’s well-known formula to a ‘T’; grim, glowering, mid-paced, buzzing Black Metal with plenty of minor keys, graven howls, and strange, horror-soundtrack-esque keyboards. Malefic’s work (including this split) generally features the drums, guitars, and vocals rather distant in the mix, with the keyboard work a little closer to the surface. This gives the material a strange ‘buried alive’ feel to it, and leaves the listener with quite an unsettling feeling. Song 3, “Conjuration of Terror”, is a perfect example of a typical Xasthur song. It bends back and forth from a relatively brisk pace, to a much slower canter 3 or 4 times during its duration, with the keyboard work tying the song together. Also fairly typical of Xasthur’s material, much of the subtle changes in the music can be missed upon first impression. The true bleak nature of this man’s vision truly sinks in after repeated listens, especially through headphones.
As I mentioned earlier, included on this release is an excellent rendition of Katatonia’s “Palace of Frost” (from their first EP). Malefic does a great job of putting his own twisted, suicidal spin on this great tune. His vocals and guitar riffs are much higher in the mix for this track alone. Gone is the almost suffocating production we’ve grown used to with much of his work, and to be perfectly honest, it’s quite refreshing…almost as if the lid to the coffin fell open to let in one last breath of fresh air.
The Leviathan side of the coin:
The last three songs (clocking in at about 31minutes) travel the well-ploughed grounds of Leviathan. Similar to the Malefic material, Wrest follows a particular formula; completely forlorned, trance-inducing Black Metal with vocals wailed and screeched from the absolute blackest depths. His music has a remarkable ability to leave the listener feeling absolutely bitter, disheartened, and downtrodden. Track 8, “Unfailing Fall into Naught” is a perfect example of this. During it’s near 11 minutes, the guitar medley wraps mournfully around the plodding rhythm, while the vocals wail far off in the distance. The song eventually breaks down to a dismal, floating keyboard outro for the last 3 minutes. It’s a fucking beautiful piece of absolute misery, and easily his best contribution to the split. Track 9, “The Remotest Cipher”, follows more of an angst-riddled path - something probably quite fitting for someone who’s long since slipped into madness. The pace is faster, the riffs more chaotic, and Wrest’s vocals are angrier and generally more terse.
The album closes with Leviathan’s cover of Judas Iscariot’s “Where The Winter Beats Incessant”. Much like the Xasthur cover, Wrest does an excellent job of cramming the song through the meat-grinder of his mind, leaving the original version intact, but with his own wicked fingerprints all over the scene.
It’s probably quite obvious that I’d recommend this split to just about anyone. Those not familiar with either artists work are in for a disturbing treat, and long-time fans obviously know what to expect. The old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” certainly rings true with me, but I must admit, based on the sheer volume of work these two have provided that already follows the above mentioned formulas, I hope to hear some new tricks on future releases. Both artists have new full-lengths rising in the oven, and since this split, Leviathan has released yet another split with fellow U.S. Black Metaller, Sapthuran, also on Battle Kommand records.
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