Friday, 21 May 2010

Xasthur - Portal of Sorrow

Xasthur - Portal of Sorrow, 2010 (Disharmonic Variations) 78%

Eschewing any kind of major label, for this, Xasthur's final album is understandable when the work is as grand a departure from the established sound of the band. Malefic has expressed a desire to remove the shackles that genre-releases place on his work and move further into neoclassical territory. Portal of Sorrow sees Malefic - this time listed in the liner notes as Scott - paired with US dark folk chantreuse Marissa Nadler - whose own work comes highly recommended by me, by the way. Nadler's otherworldly vocals are used not only used in a choral way, but themselves can be seen as an added instrument, aiding the flow of the lo-fi songs. There is of course, a black metal foundation to the release, with the trademark buzzing guitars and mid-paced drumming taking prominent roles in many tracks. Then, we have the plodding, doom-like elegies such as The Abyss Holds the Mirror, which in reality is closer to Amber Asylum than any black metal - and if not for the croaking vocals of malcontent (which themselves are barely audible) it would be, as Scott wishes, free from any genre constraints.

The packaging for the album is, to be kind, minimal - the two page booklet in its purple hue has a DIY feel to it and holds little information bar some lyrics to a few of the songs. The album's cover, meanwhile is a collage in homage to the dead and the ghostly apparitions peering through the fog represent the vestige of black metal that remains, gloomily in the background from the netherworld, bidding farewell as one of the scene's most prodigious contributors prepares to embark on another journey.

So, after all that, is it any good? The short answer is YES. Upon more indepth analysis, however I would have placed this as high as any of Xasthur's previous albums had the songwriting been as strong. Arguably this is the most ambitious of the Xasthur works and the atmosphere is amazing - there is, however sadly just that little bit of magic missing from too many of the songs to herald Portal of Sorrow as the classic swansong it could have been.

No comments:

Post a Comment