Defective Epitaph

Xasthur's albums are like the musical manifestation of the dementors, the cloaked Harry Potter ghouls whose mere presence robs people of happiness, hope and, with extended exposure, their very souls. Malefic, Xasthur's California-based lone contributor, blends feedback-strangled psychedelic guitar leads, haunted-carnival organs, horror-score strings and white-noise clouds. He alternates between two unsettling vocal approaches: sporadic distant-sounding shrieks, like a prisoner's anguished cries muffled by thick dungeon walls, and feral digestive noises that conjure images of a primal feeding frenzy. Most songs start with a relatively fast-paced backdrop and gloomily tuneful downward-spiraling guitars, before slowing to a dull pulse that yields ominously to silence; these compositions feel as though they were tortured to death. Malefic uses real drums instead of programmed percussion for the first time, and he fumbles with a few early beats. However, by the third track, "Cemetery of Shattered Masks," erratic rhythms have become the least of the melancholy-infected listener's worries.

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