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Music Review: Xasthur- All Reflections Drained

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Xasthur has always been known for its obscurity and hazy sound, but on All Reflections Drained he really takes this aspect over the top. Following the vein of the previous album, Defective Epitaph, it's a lot more muddled and twisted, giving the idea of a "clean sound" a very gruesome name. The entire album is one big distorted blob, driven by eerie keyboards and wailing guitars. Mmeant to create the soundtrack of nightmares, and it most certainly does, but unfortunately this album is also a nightmare for fans as well.

All Reflections Drained does a good job of keeping the Xasthur legacy on top of the U.S. ambient black metal game by focusing on the atmosphere through the heavy use of keyboards swirling around thick, drawn out guitar chords with a steady drum line in the background; however the music gets too thick at times, making the listener get lost in the music ("Damage Your Soul" is a good example of this). However, this is not too worrisome as a second trademark of Xasthur is most of the songs on the album are very similar sounding, so if one was to get lost in the music and fall asleep only to wake up about twenty minutes later, they probably wouldn't have missed much.

Another issue with Xasthur's most recent release is the absence of his vocals. Sure, every once in a while his distorted howl of anguish comes over the speakers, but it is more in the background with the drums than in the forefront with the rest of the music. This is a HUGE change, and possible disappointment, for most Xasthur fans like myself, who felt that the vocals were a key point of what made the music so damn scary. His voice is unnerving and inhuman, and such a big part of the music that to do away with it is like taking the drums away from your favorite band.Try to imagine Godsmack, The Dixie Chicks, Jay-Z, or even Cher without the presence of vocals or drums in their music! It would completely change everything.

While Xasthur does not get rid of his vocals altogether, it is sparingly heard, in the music. There is even a session vocalist who makes use of spoken word verses that even sound creepier, and more annoying, than Xasthur does, and like Xasthur it is also used very sparingly. However, on the title track he gives a sermon of morbid obscurity that, for some very sick reason, works quite well with the mood of the album.

Musically, the album is dark and monotonous as always. Songs are not as long as they usually are; most clock under six minutes. In the past, Xasthur usually would do much longer songs that stretched to the eight minute range, but perhaps due to the repetitive, distorted crawl through each track he felt it was time to cut back a little. There is one very long track here — perhaps Xasthur's longest ever — that spans over fifteen minutes called "Masquerade of Incisions." It is also the most engimatic track he has ever done, because it makes a use of multiple tempos and instruments, starting with the wailing of the guitar layered by the synthesizer, before the sound gets to a crashing crescendo and the drums pick up.

However, near eleven minutes into the song, everything quiets down and this sort of raspy breathing can be heard over a piano melody. If this is the sort of direction that Xasthur is going in, perhaps the lack of vocals is not so bad after all, since he just made up for it by adding ten times more creepiness to the music from just those two little effects. Let us hope in the future Xasthur will continue to experiment with the subtlety that eventually overcome the distorted haze his music has become.

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