Xasthur: 2005 Demo

[16 June 2010]

By Richard Elliott

Malefic, aka Scott Conner, the California-based black metal artist behind Xasthur recorded this demo in 2005 when he was preparing material for the album Subliminal Genocide. That album was a darkly impressive work that showcased Connor’s mastery of the kind of ambient, black metal associated with Burzum, Blut Aus Nord, and Nortt (with whom Malefic has released a split CD). Doom metal was another reference point, a fact underlined by Malefic’s involvement in Sunn O’s Black One. Subliminal Genocide also incorporated elements of symphonic metal, with its various layers coalescing to create an extended work that was immersive, addictive, and disturbing in equal measures.

The two untitled tracks on Xasthur: 2005 Demo, totaling just more than 16 minutes, offer glimpses of the same brilliance. Though, perhaps not surprisingly, given their status as demos, there is a sense that more work could be done. The first track, particularly, has a rather muddy quality to the sound which does not arise from the “darkness” being aimed for, and which comes through all the more strongly as just a rough sound in comparison with the crystal clarity of the multi-layered Subliminal Genocide). The second, longer piece is better, though some gaps could be filled in. The lack of dynamism in the first half is partially made up for in the second with the arrival of the drums. A strangely beautiful riff emerges and repeats to the end of the track. It is a bit too repetitive, though the growing sense of menace from the helicopter-like drums is impressive.

Xasthur’s latest album Portal of Sorrow continues Connor’s involvement in the gothic via an intriguing collaboration with gothic folk performer Marissa Nadler. Those wishing to see what Xasthur is capable of when working on longform projects are directed towards that release. This demo will mostly appeal mainly to hardcore fans; as a work in itself, it is unrealized.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/126228-xasthur-demo-2005/