All Reflections Drained
Scott “Malefic” Conner of Xasthur continues a frightening purple patch that ushered forth 2006’s Subliminal Genocide, 2008’s amazing Defective Epitaph, with All Reflections Drained another feverish, individual addition to the Xasthur canon. Herein Malefic resumes his unyielding journey into his toxic inner space psyche through twisted, crudely orchestral lo-fi horrorscapes that sound like nothing currently claiming itself to be metal. When the thought of metal brings to mind thousands of wrist-studded fists triumphantly pounding upward, the discordant, mournful opening instrumental “Dirge Forsaken,” brings a flash of a bloodstained, pale arm falling limply onto a pile of rotten, wet leaves.
All Reflections Drained takes the elements that made Defective Epitaph such fucking compelling listening — massed armies of detuned guitar, suffocating shoe-gazing atmospherics, head trauma drumming, cheap horror movie synths, and sickly retching vocals — and ups the fucking ante one hundredfold. Everything sounds a hundred times more broken, everything sounds a hundred times more weird, but here’s the fucking rub, the songs on Reflections have a more definitive and confident shape to them. Snatches of film music, krautrock, Joy Division, and early industrial surface for a moment before being buried in sonic offal. There aren’t as many vocals — ambiance and space are instead amped up. At times, his music seems more emotionally accessible than ever.
A track like “Maze of Oppression” — with layer upon layer of broken sound that almost reaches a point of lushness, detuned piano, echoed whispery vocals, glimmering sheets of guitar atmospherics and tribal drums — shows a new assurance in composition. “Masquerade of Incisions” is 15 minutes of self-mutilating ambiance and majestic cathedral echo giving way to an immovable wall of white noise and rabid screaming in a room with metal walls. “Damage Your Soul” is disorienting, with wheezing keyboards suffocating the rest of the music, the guitars and drums lock into a brutal mantric groove and vocals disappear into puddles of static and ripping fabric. Gah. It’s so fucking good, and the sound of a circular saw cutting metal ends the song. “All Reflections Drained” starts out Gothic as hell, like prime Killing Joke, tense atmospheres straining and building, a hymnal drone that builds and builds. But it never kicks in, and finishes with a pump organ’s wheeze of defeat — it’s the perfect ending.
Hydra Head: www.hydrahead.com