Xasthur/Leviathan [Split CD]

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Originally available exclusively on vinyl, this split release pairing cult black metal acts Xasthur and Leviathan quickly sold out of its limited first pressing through Profound Lore Records, but was helpfully brought to CD format in 2005 by the crew at Battle Kommand. Xasthur, that master of the morose, is unleashed first, and extreme black metal fans will find that his slow-creeping funeral dirges -- glowing wraithlike in the gloom with their ghostly melodies, tortured rasps, and decaying riffs -- rarely fail to do their highly descriptive titles justice (see "The Eerie Bliss and Solitude (Of Torture)" and "Keeper of Sharpened Blades (And Ominous Fates)"). However, and with the possible exception of the memorable "Telepathic With the Deceased," his hypnotizing spell is almost always broken when they take a detour into accelerated blastbeats; effectively proving, if nothing else, that his strengths lie in the more deliberate and creepier sort of material. As for Leviathan's four contributions on the second half of the disc, one can't help but feel a little disappointed that two are, in fact, covers (one of gothic/death/doom giants Katatonia, another of fellow black metal extremists Judas Iscariot), but then, the remaining tandem of originals: "Unfailing Fall into Naught" and "The Remotest Cipher (Besides the Last Breath Vanished)," are quite something to behold. Both are colossal sonic treaties running the gamut from scorched earth clusters of guitars and percussion topped by forceful howling wind vocals, to semi-ambient soundtracks; their tortuously drawn out trajectories weaving clingy spider webs which gradually entrap the listener's imagination and, in the process, suck him completely dry. Together with the works of Xasthur, they are recommended for experienced black metal fans, not the faint of heart.

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