10/13/2006 - Review by: Etiam
Xasthur/Leviathan - Split CD - 2005 - Battle Kommand Records
|Track Listing1. The Eerie Bliss and Torture (of Solitude)|
2. Keeper of Sharpened Blades (And Ominous Fates)
3. Conjuration of Terror
5. Achieve Emptiness
6. Telepathic With The Deceased (Rehearsal 11/04)
7. Palace of Frost (Katanonia Cover)
8. Unfailing Fall Into Naught
9. The Remotest Cipher (Beside The Last Breath Banished)
10. Where Winter Beats Incessant (Judas Iscariot Cover)
Xasthur, Leviathan. Two of the most well known American black metal acts today joined forces for the first (and thus far, the only) time to release this split back in 2004. Its distribution was severely limited, leaving it largely unheard until this past year when Battle Kommand Records so kindly repressed it, likely in an effort to promote their other Leviathan split with Sapthuran (which comes highly recommended, by the by). As incentive to re-purchase, for those who were lucky enough to acquire this split the first time around, both artists have included additional material: Xasthur adds three, including a Katatonia cover, while Leviathan covers Judas Iscariot.
Xasthur leads off, plodding through each song (with the exception of the Katatonia cover, ‘Palace of Frost’) with ambiguity and sloth. At times throughout his discography, Malefic’s work possesses a strong and consuming aura, but this collection does not convey that same sense of utter defeat and self-loathing. The requisite mid-tempo drums, perpetual riff repetition, and the distant roar of his screams muffled nearly to a whisper are all here, but they often lack conviction. Thus, each song becomes more a technical study of form (which, for black metal, is never a good thing) than an emotionally draining marathon.
Xasthur is a concept that, at its best, undermines its audience through a growing sense of unease and overwhelming weakness. However, without a strong sense of flow (both within the song itself and also from one to the next) and a cohesive nature, Xasthur’s effort comes across as hasty and unfulfilled.
The bonus tracks, though, offer a respite from monotony and are more convincing. Not surprising, considering that one of them is an old rehearsal and another a cover. Overall, surprisingly pedestrian.
Leviathan is next, with three tracks totally over 30 minutes. Unhindered by the conventions of full-length albums, Wrest has been extremely busy in the past two years, releasing a number of splits and EP’s, with this work being one of the first in this new cycle. Those who have heard the aforementioned Leviathan/Sapthuran split, be forewarned. The simultaneous release date of these two is misleading, and those expecting them to sound very similar will be surprised. Wrest is still Wrest, of course, but his work on this split was recorded two years ago, and is therefore not as challenging and experimental as his most recent works. Perhaps as a precursor to his more lyrical Lurker of Chalice release that came in 2005, Wrest turned Leviathan towards contemplation rather than brutal catharsis, resulting in lethargic melodies that wallow for a time and eventually sink into the cradling arms of ambience. The two original tracks move away from the rock ‘n’ roll riffing Leviathan has become known for, and his signature, embittered dissonance is far subdued. Bolstered by synthesized strings and a strong dose of his reverb-heavy clean guitar, Leviathan follows here a nearly post-rock, soundscape (i.e. Pelican, Isis, etc.) structure, slowly swelling to an atmospheric and emotionally revealing peak before gently subsiding again.
As conspicuously absent from the spotlight as Wrest is, his music is always bare and unfettered, which is perhaps his strongest asset. For those skeptical of the fanfare surrounding Leviathan, and for those who think him unoriginal, this could be an excellent starting point, as it more fully exhibits Wrest’s appealing and sophisticated ear for art and expression. Beautiful.