A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors

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You know the cult of Xasthur is reaching fever pitch when even ancient demos from this increasingly revered American black metal institution are being repackaged for official release on CD, and for the second time with a bonus disc, no less! Originally recorded circa 2001, A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors marked Xasthur's seemingly inevitable transition into a one-man operation, devoid of living drummers, helmed by the incomparably misanthropic Malefic and, in many ways, it establishes the general creative template he's rarely wavered from, but simply built upon, ever since. At this juncture, Malefic's hollow roar had yet to plumb quite the fathomless depths of despair that would eventually leave him almost without equal within the extreme metal community, and his songwriting had yet to expand in scope through sheer time and experience with the form. But at its core, the tenebrous black metal immersed in murky sound and suffocating ambiance that would characterize Xasthur's most acclaimed later-day efforts can already be glimpsed here. Look and ye shall find numerous glints of dark obsidian amid the crusty volcanic bedrock, by way of haunting guitar melodies and spine-tingling keyboard figures that repeatedly surface out of the inexorably crude underlying riffs (many of them dangerously extended to the very brink of boredom, incidentally). And even though the Burzum influence looms large throughout (and yields reverent covers of "Moon Shrouded in Misery" and "Channeling the Power of Souls Into a New God"), there are also shades of Danish one-man-show Nortt sprinkled over the album's more funereal doom moments -- not to mention the legendary Bathory in the pagan mystery and Benedictine chants of "Dwelling Beneath the Woods." As mentioned earlier, the 2008 reissue through Hydra Head is made even more collectible because of a second disc containing six obscurities of varying, errrr...obscurity, including all three songs from the A Darkened Winter EP. In sum, perhaps there was very good reason to unearth these demos after all, even though the common listener (heck, even most heavy metal fans) will find them utterly unapproachable, and perhaps indefensible due to their crude recording. That's the Xasthur way of life, however, and so his supporters will surely embrace it with the same morbid fascination they showed for his subsequent releases.

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