posted on 10/2007 By:
Of all the Charlie Brown’s in the world, Malefic is definitely the Charlie Brownest. Not the Charlie Brown that winds up falling on his ass when Lucy pulls the football, but the Charlie Brown with the little gray cloud following his every move as he hangs his head loooooooow and walks to his daily doom. Malefic’s beyond the healing powers of a mere hug at this point. He ain’t turning his frown upside down just from smelling a fresh sheet of chocolate chip cookies. Nope, at this point I think the only thing that’s gonna make this feller’s day is if he were to find out that ¾’s of the population has just expired due to some odious pandemic. Until then, Malefic will just have to vent as much of his dispiritedness as he can through the cathartic powers of his music -- something he’s actually been doing on an extremely consistent basis over the course of the last eight years.
So, with all the regularity of our yearly flu season, Xasthur has once again returned (nearly a year to the day after his Hydra Head debut in ‘06) with his latest afflicted release, Defective Epitaph. What’s new? Not a whole hell-of-a-lot, to be brutally honest. It’s still mostly mid-paced, often craaaaawling, carcinogenic, pessimistic, often riff-less (the Nocturnal Poisoning days are a very distant memory) black metal with yowling, scraping vocals and a sorrow-sodden drape of keyboards and minor key pluckings to help sink listeners into the murkiest depths of the grayest, most fetid pool of diseased despair; pretty much the M.O. of every single one of Malefic’s releases. But then, those people who welcome this guy’s sickly works into their lives aren’t exactly expecting huge strides from one release to the next, right? Right?
Well, predictably, those who’ve abhorred Xasthur works in the past will still despise Defective Epitaph, so there’s certainly nothing new in that department. But for those of us who glean pleasure from this man’s pain, there are a couple new subtle shifts since his last full-length. For one, the production is still worming its way sloooooowly closer to daylight. But it’s still sorta like spit-shining an old pig-sticker: it may have a few more parts that polish a little brighter, but it’s still a filthy, primitive weapon bent on helping to end one’s life sooner. The other development, however, is much more noticeable. Probably the most noticeable alteration to Xasthur’s sound since the day he started…
- DRUMS -
Yep, drums. Real, live drums. And it works, for the most part. Except during moments when they flail a bit too disheveled and conflict with the somber keys/pluckings/howlings that are going on -- “Legacy of Human Irrelevance”, for example: too jarring. But they work nicely when they’re more tempered and simplistic, as we hear on opener, “Soulless Elegy”. Or when they boom directly, as they do throughout “Oration of Ruin”. There’s still some very familiar sounding drum machining popping up on occasion, however. Mostly during creeping moments…I think. To be honest, sometimes it’s a bit hard to tell what the hell’s going on during some of his songs, mostly due to the way Malefic chooses to mix his records. In any event, the drums are a nice, new addition to the Xasthur sound. Something I hope he develops a bit further for future releases.
The bad news? This record is just too bloody long. Well over an hour of this style is a bit much to handle during one sitting. In addition, despite the live drums, the album still travels a very familiar terrain, making it a difficult sell for those who already own other Xasthur recordings. Still, it serves its purpose well, and would make a fine companion to any wintry, dismal day, or alongside any of your more nefarious, doleful activities. Perhaps it's not one of the year’s more essential recordings, but Deceptive Epitaph definitely represents yet another woe-riddled trip into Malefic’s long-tainted, rotten mind.
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