Released: 2006, Hydra Head Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Xasthur, the California-based, one-man atmospheric black/drone metal band, has unleashed its latest slab of misanthropy upon the masses with SUBLIMINAL GENOCIDE. At 72 minutes, the CD is a long, desolate ride through Malefic’s (AKA Scott Conner) world of nihilism, pain, suffering, hate and suicide. Malefic’s use of ambience through noise and keyboards is a key element of Xasthur’s sound and along with his distorted, barely-intelligible shrieks, the band’s music can be a very disturbing and cathartic experience. Taken as a whole, singular piece of music from front to back, SUBLIMINAL GENOCIDE is, like all of Xasthur’s releases, a raw and unsettling exercise but fascinating in its bleak nature of utter hopelessness.
The haunting piano intro, “Disharmonic Convergence,” ushers in a false sense of security before Malefic’s twelve-minute opus, “The Prison of Mirrors,” relinquishes the listener to a vision of the artist’s frazzled vision of human nature (sample lyric: “Mirrors of torture/Unforgiving, expose your sins/Your suicide by the mirror's shattered blade”). Malefic’s spine-chilling howls enrapture the listener and while drenched in distortion effects, their impact is insurmountable. Snaking its way through several tempos and intensity levels, this one single track exposes Malefic’s genius. The slow, ambient “Beauty Is Only Razor Deep” is chock full of choral voices and Malefic’s cold, terrifying screams with a barely-audible programmed drum beat that somehow holds everything together. “Trauma Will Always Linger” features a buzzing guitar that creates a very close parallel to funeral doom in its snail’s pace delivery and lumbering tempo. Combining choral vocals, spoken word and, of course, harsh screams, Malefic keeps things interesting and well outside the conventional paradigms dictated by the genre. Invoking melody on “Loss and Inner Distortion” may send black metal purists reeling but the clean guitar and subtle keyboard effects make for one of the most listenable and “pure” songs of Xasthur’s short but prolific recording career. The title takes a similarly straight-forward approach with prominent war-like drums thundering behind Malefic’s brief but abrasive screams.
Critics may claim that Xasthur’s output has been very redundant and that Malefic’s one-note screams and droning tempos are essentially rehashed. True, there isn’t much one can do in this genre but Xasthur has kept things interesting nonetheless. SUBLIMINAL GENOCIDE is background music to plot the decimation of society and/or kill yourself to—plain and simple. With such unpleasant material and a generally offensive and anti-social outlook on life, Malefic won’t be burning up any charts but SUBLIMINAL GENOCIDE—as well as his brief time working with doom/drone giants SunnO)))—proves that he is unwavering in his musical direction and a true master of his craft.
KILLER KUTS: “The Prison of Mirrors,” “Trauma Will Always Linger,” “Loss and Inner Distortion”