Xasthur

Telepathic with the Deceased

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Xasthur's fourth album opens with a nearly four-minute electronic instrumental consisting of two chords in a long, droning pattern, sounding like the results of a jam session between Trent Reznor and Steve Reich. The nine tracks that follow add some more traditional black metal touches (hyper-speed and completely unfunky drumbeats, death growl vocals, guitar amps set on stun -- that sort of thing), but they're still all in the service of these lengthy, predominantly atmospheric drones. The vocals are deliberately inaudible, which is actually a huge plus because lyrics and vocals are invariably the weakest points of this style of music. Furthermore, the downright odd mix of the album as a whole makes it seem like every element of each arrangement is exactly the same (not particularly loud) volume as all the others; rather than simply making the record sound flat and boring, this somewhat paradoxically adds to the songs' power, because the listener invariably strains to pick out individual instruments within the onslaught. When the arrangements open up, like on the woozy, disorienting coda of "Abysmal Depths Are Flooded," which sounds like death metal's answer to My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, the effect is astoundingly effective. Death metal goes art rock, then.

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