Xasthur - Inevitably Dark (Lupus Lounge)
There are few bands that garner the same respect and reverence among extreme metal fans like Xasthur (pronounced 'Zass-thurr'). Like soldiers in the presence of their superior officers, cult commandos and black metal elitists snap to attention at the very mention of the legendary one man band spearheaded since 1995 by the enigmatic Scott Conner.
Officially disbanded in 2010, the original incarnation of Xasthur boasted nine full length albums and well over a dozen other releases (EPs, splits, etc.), each one a horrifying journey into raw, visceral music. Reborn in 2015 as an acoustic dark folk project called Nocturnal Poisoning, Conner revived the name Xasthur and continued experimenting with styles far beyond the borders of black metal.
In a homecoming of sorts, the band's eleventh full length release (fourteenth counting all of Nocturnal Poisoning's works), Inevitably Dark ventures back into blackened territory for the first time 2010's Portal of Sorrow. Ever a dedicated writer and master craftsman of music, this will be Xasthur's first double album spanning 23 tracks from start to finish.
With a history of recording at home, the simple set up used for all Xasthur releases has become the hallmark of the band's sound. Although home studios have come a long way in terms of quality, affordability, and utilization (see also: the many stories that Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas recorded her multi-Grammy award winning debut in a bedroom), Xasthur has always preferred a lo-fi, unpolished sound to capture the essence of despair and isolation.
While painting with similar shades from years past, the album is not necessarily a return to form. Rather, it is an impeccable blend of classic textures with hues of psychedelia, acid jazz, blues, and ambience. To that point, as songs such as "A Future to Fear" and "Abandoned Intuition" harken back to the days of Telepathic With the Deceased, others like "Psychiatric Masochists", "Spectrum of Hate", and "Hypnotized by Lies" take cues, though uncanny ones, from folk music.
Stepping into what could be argued as avant-garde terrain, "Euphoric Bad Trip" sounds exactly as the name implies. Indeed, the entire album could be classified as avant-garde music due to its focus on conveying a message without words. Though completely instrumental, a change of pace compared to Xasthur's last two releases, Scott Conner aims to illustrate the life stories and inner struggles of the homeless and mentally ill.
After nearly three decades and continuous evolution, Xasthur remains an experience more than ever. With Inevitably Dark, listeners are sure to be left with more questions than answers, and perhaps even some insight on the value of things from cars and houses to our own sanity that some have plenty of while others have little to none.
The Metal Mayan review:
There is an incredible channel on YouTube called Soft White Underbelly, which is a series of interviews with individuals that society at large often tries to ignore and forget. These stories are told by addicts, gangsters, pimps and prostitutes, survivors of abuse, the mentally ill, and many others. If these are the words, the Inevitably Dark is without a doubt the soundtrack.
I would argue, therefore, that the world needs Xasthur's most recent release as a potent dose of reality. The raw emotion and power of the album combined with the unfiltered, minimally produced sound is as real as a sunrise over a beach or a three car collision.
In 2006, I was introduced to Xasthur by a small column in a metal magazine regarding the upcoming release at the time, Subliminal Genocide, specifically noting the aforementioned points regarding the band's sound. Today, the few Xasthur releases I have in my library are some of my prized possessions not because of their rarity, but because of the unapologetic realness in each song.
This album, like those that came before it, is an experience that welcomes the bold. There are no finger popping melodies, no big hooks or massive choruses, though I dare say I plan to listen to "Euphoric Bad Trip" many times in the future. To put it another way, if this were a book, it would be in line with the works of Camus, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, and Kafka: far from mainstream, but an incredible opportunity to learn more about the world and oneself.
Pick up a copy of Inevitably Dark, out 22 June on Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions.
Advanced copy courtesy of Secret Service PR, Lupus Lounge, and Prophecy Productions