CD Review: Xasthur - Subliminal Genocide
After Coldplay's performance at 2003's MTV Music Awards, host Chris Rock said, "Wow, I hope you didn't slit your wrists to that one." He could have been referring to Xasthur. A one-man band by a musician named Malefic, Xasthur is the unlikely leading light of US black metal. A notorious recluse, Malefic lives in Los Angeles and evidently never leaves his house. Instead, he sits at home and concocts some of the most antisocial, misanthropic sounds ever committed to tape. The dude actually has a room with a noose hanging from the ceiling. The image comes to mind of a guy (grimly) getting up, (grimly) eating cereal, and then (grimly) trudging to his primitive studio – all while in corpsepaint.
Since 1999, Xasthur has built up a massive discography spanning six full-lengths, six splits, three EP's, and three compilation appearances. Some have called this overkill. But if, like Malefic, you had no day job and you refused to play live, you, too, would churn out tunes as fast as you could.
This prolificness affects Subliminal Genocide somewhat. With 11 tracks totaling over 71 minutes in length, the album is exhausting and disjointed. Listening to Xasthur, of course, is never a walk in the park. But this album seems like just a collection of the last 11 things Malefic recorded. The tracks vary in sound quality from lo-fi to extremely lo-fi. If black metal didn't think that lo-fi was good, I'd call much of the sound here "shitty."
That's a shame, as there's good stuff here, if nothing Malefic hasn't done before. All the Xasthur trademarks are present – psychedelic keyboard interludes, fuzzed-out guitars, lots of anguished howling. The songs are long, often overly so. At his best, Malefic comes up with innovative, dissonant riffs that really get under the skin. Repeated over time, these riffs can be trance-inducing. But if the riffs aren't good enough, their repetition gets boring. Thus, this album alternates between haunting, hallucinatory passages and bouts of "get on with it, already." It's not bad, but a better introduction to Xasthur would be The Funeral of Being or To Violate the Oblivious.