Leviathan/Xasthur split

This is not a new recording, but a pressing onto cd of the split vinyl release of 2004 by Profound Lore Records. Battle Kommand is offering the material to a wider audience but also to the select few that own the vinyl because of the addition of three bonus tracks by Xasthur and one by Leviathan. New artwork is on display as well. Combining one of the most prominent members of the new American black metal scene with its most prolific seems a no brainer for success because the number of crossover fans here is huge. This should be one of the better spit releases ever given the bands involved. Splits never seem to put two bands of equal standing together. I do not think Xasthur and Leviathan are of equal stature but certainly more equal than many split parings, on the level of Deathspell Omega/ Clandestine Blaze. I would like to review each band on its own merits and not one against the other.

Xasthur, on first listen I thought kind of boring and after awhile I looked up at the cd player because the music finally caught my attention and it was track seven, the Katatonia cover song, “Palace of Frost” just starting, sorry Malefic. The Xasthur music is mellow, with a very slow pace with occasionally slightly faster drumming. Any harshness is achieved with distortion and guitar noise and vocals. I would classify myself as not a fan yet I still have ten Xasthur releases, though splits were always because of the other bands, as is the case here. Nocturnal Poisoning started it for me based on the cover art. I’m not sure why I am always willing to give him another chance (besides getting them in the mail to review that is). My favorite release remains the re-recorded corrected version of A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors, Malefic’s early work is what keeps me going, “powerful, grim, hateful and misery induced.” He earned my respect and I can’t start dismissing his music as crap now, that would be letting myself off easy. After a dozen listens, interspersed with other Xasthur discs, I’m enjoying it a lot more. “Keeper of Sharpened Blades” is good, though I still think the drum sound is weak. The vocals are nicely twisted again. Though as usual, his music does not send me spiraling out of control into fits of depression or give me suicidal thoughts, nor does it rile me up in a fit of anger. It is pleasant background music for the drudgery of day-to-day existence. There is a difference between minimalist drumming and simplistic drumming. Leviathan is minimalist, Xasthur simplistic, though it wasn’t always so. Think back to “Cursed be the Memory of Light” for example for a good Philthy Animal Taylor impersonation. The anemic drumming on display on this split is more like Rick Allen. Listening to the Katatonia cover, which goes way back to before they became the Discouraging Ones, is very enjoyable and Malefic does his best to entice me to pull out my disc and listen to the original, something I have not done for more than a decade, but I doubt I will like it as much as this version, well done.

Leviathan, I’ve been a fan since MisanthropicNecroBlasphemy, which I ordered based only on a mail order description so I could make shipping costs more enticing from Europe. Wrest has gone a bit too much ambient for my tastes of late but he is one of the true tortured souls, he is not faking it for a stage gimmick, and it is that authenticity that makes his music enticing. A true fan would have the entire collection, I have 12, what does that make me? Whether he deems me qualified to review or not I consider Wrest one of the top talents in black metal today. He offers two lengthy new songs of ten and a half and eight and a half minutes. Drums have a minimal presence and the pace is slow with plenty of synthesizer music to provide the twists and turns, but this time he never gets totally lost in ambient soundscapes. The vocals are as anguished as always, once again putting the young Varg to shame. The music is not a maelstrom. There is some melody and lots of subtlety, the pace alters frequently and songs flow beautifully. The third song is Judas Iscariot’s “Where the Winter Beats Incessant” from the Distant in Solitary Night disc, as the bonus track and the original ten and a half minute opus is now an extended 12 minute Wrest epic. What is it that inspires Iscariot cover songs? Usually cover songs pale in comparison to the original artist’s vision but bands covering Judas Iscariot go all out, true devotion. No one ever covered an Emperor song with such conviction.

The top three songs on disc are “The Remotest Cipher” “Where The Winter Beats Incessant” and “Unfailing Fall Into Naught.” All three happen to be Leviathan, Sorry Malefic but you had some pretty tough competition on this split. Xasthur has put me back on the fence ready to jump onto the passing bandwagon with an inspired offering that took awhile to get into but was worth the effort. A great release, a great split.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Grimulfr
November 5th, 2005


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