There’s a debate in many circles as to how certain types of metal are supposed to sound. Can power metal be raw and rough? Can death metal be shiny and polished? Must doom metal always feel like something awful has crawled out of a tomb? Is there only one way of doing things, or can there be many that are acceptable?
Black metal is one that, in its second stage in the early ’90s, grew increasingly primordial, rough, and unpolished. Some of that came from the artists’ choice (the purposeful use of the worst, cheapest mics possible to record early Burzum albums, for instance) and some from wear, tear, and decreasing quality of tape dubs that made the music sound like it was recorded in a full fish tank 10 copies later. Whatever the reason, black metal often is held at its lovers’ hearts for being so underdeveloped sonically, like it was vomited from the recesses of hell itself. Wait for the eruption once the whole world hears the new Watain record. I stand by, ready to be amused.
If you ask me, there’s no right or wrong way to do black metal as long as it’s true and honest, which is something you can just feel. And I dare you to listen to Xothist and tell me you can’t feel every single second of the music. Oh, Xothist, by the way, is a project by Daniel Bouse (also a member of Vocivus), who handles all instrumentation and vocals, joining a wide list of solo black metal artists who don’t need an entire band to make enough hellacious noise to pulverize your hearing. He initially released a self-titled effort on cassette only (on Bleak Environment), in very limited numbers. I know that’s not new for music, putting out a couple hundred or couple thousand of something. But there were only 46 copies made of Xothist’s debut, so if you claim to have a copy, there’s an excellent chance you’re lying.
Luckily, Fallen Empire snapped up this hidden gem of dark hell, remastered it for a vinyl reissue, and is putting 330 more copies out there for your greedy, filthy hands, and if you know what’s good for you (and you love charred basement black metal), you need to get your hands on this. You can hear Side A for free on Fallen Empire’s Bandcamp site (see below), and if that doesn’t convince you, then I no longer can be of any help.
This effort is made up of six songs, with the whole thing lasting a little over 40 minutes, and it’s a riveting ride. Yes, it’s a harsh listen, the production values would make high-level producers blush, and it demands you pay close attention so you can pick up on every shard of pain and disillusionment. The tracks are simply given Roman numerals as names, which is probably best since each side’s cuts act as one large piece. The first side (made up of three tracks) has a dark, eerie first few minutes, as the dark shadows pick themselves off the ground and begin to haunt, and eventually synth and drone creep up and darken the room, with Bouse’s harsh vocals sounding like those of a desperate man in the night. What’s surprising about the music is its emotional and musical depth, which you might not pick up on at first because of the raw production, but there’s a certain magic to making that discovery for yourself. As rough and scuffed up as this music is, you get caught up in it and swept off into the night. Or at least I did every time I spent time with it. The last portion of Side A hits an abrasive grind and simmers as it settles into ambient drone and slowly fades away. Excellent dose of pain.
The second side, also built on three tracks, is barely audible for the first few minutes, as the atmosphere settles into a hushed drone. Then it blows up without warning, with speed, aggression, and wailed vocals that instantly grab your attention. The song reaches a fiery glory, and melody returns again to give the music an unexpected shimmer, and then the whole things fades. But it rises again, as you might expect, and guitars charge back up, things burst with life (albeit under a thick, suffocating blanket), and the vocals bubble back up, powered with more vitriol to spew forth. The storm hits an uncomfortable level that, if it was an actual weather event, would rattle your windows, but just as it seems it’ll rip apart your foundation, an ambient pocket re-emerges, and the song ends in as spooky a manner as possible.
Xothist’s music deserves to be heard by more people, and with a few hundred copies of this first release heading out into the world, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. This is dark and depressing on one hand, but surging and weirdly uplifting at other times. It’s not for all audiences, especially if you like thick gloss smeared over your music, but for those who things as bleak and dreary as they come, Xothist is a hidden treasure you’ll be glad you pulled to the surface, bloody fingers be damned.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Xothist/301859639849570
To buy the album (available soon), go here: http://store.fallenempirerecords.com/
To hear Side A of the album, go here: http://bandcamp.fallenempirerecords.com/album/xothist
For more on the label, go here: http://www.fallenempirerecords.com/
For announcement on when the record is available for purchase, follow here: https://www.facebook.com/FallenEmpireRecords