Every once in a rare while, having a crappy drummer can—in some unforeseen, extremely odd way—pay off. Venom’s slipshod 1982 masterpiece Black Metal is a good example; drummer Abaddon is woefully incapable of maintaining a consistent groove on “Countess Bathory”, but incongruously, his constant speeding up and slowing down makes it all the more likeable. Venom were buffoons, but we loved them for it. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the new Xasthur disc. Californian multi-instrumentalist Scott “Malefic” Conner has made a name for himself in underground US black metal over the past six years—his dense, ultra-lo-fi recordings cranking the depressive, bleakest elements of the genre to an insane degree—with all his previous work, right up until 2006’s brilliantly twisted opus Subliminal Genocide, making use of drum machine. In an attempt to shake things up a bit, Xasthur’s newest has Malefic handing the drumming himself, and not only is the change instantly noticeable, but it’s nearly disastrous, as his pedestrian beats are often incapable of anchoring the towering, epic compositions that the prolific dude consistently comes up with. The more mid-paced tracks hold up well, the monolithic “Oration of Ruin” especially, but listening to him struggle to keep up with his own arrangements for over an hour quickly becomes tiresome.
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