Xasthur - A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors (Reissue)
Hydra Head
Depressive Black Metal
15 songs (72:31)
Release year: 0
Xasthur, Hydra Head
Reviewed by James

Before Xasthur became the USBM leaders they are today, there was A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors. This demo has been massively difficult to obtain for the past seven years, despite many fans claiming it to be among Xasthur's best work. Luckily, the demo has been made widely available by Isis frontman Aaron Turner's Hydra Head label, so there really is no excuse for fans not to check this out. I suppose it is worth mentioning that the version contained here is slightly different to the original demo. A few extra tracks have been inserted at seemingly random intervals, most notable of which is a Mutiilation cover. The double Burzum cover from the original demo has been replaced by an alternate recording omitting Channeling The Power Of Souls Into A New God. The lengths of several tracks differ from their original counterparts, and I must admit I have no idea about the nature of this version and whether any tracks have been re-recorded or not.

For whatever reason, I've never really enjoyed Xasthur. My previous excursion into Malefic's extensive catalogue, that being 2006's Subliminal Genocide, being repetitive almost to the point of self-parody. This, however, feels different. This is a younger, more enthusiastic Malefic, unlike the man seemingly turning out music in order to satisfy contracts we see today. As bad as it sounds, I like A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors because it, well, sounds less like Xasthur. It's fitting that Malefic chose to cover the mighty Burzum and Mutiilation here, as the whole album's practically a homage to the two godfathers of depressive black metal. Indeed, Malefic seems to have used a “sound exactly like Vampires Of Black Imperial Blood” manual when “producing” (I use that term loosely, it's as hideously raw as you'd expect from a demo) this album. Actually, is it really an album? The fact that demos are rarely counted as proper albums not withstanding, the version of A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors released here is oddly bastardized, enough raritites from the period chucked in at random so that you could make a case for it being a compilation.

Variety was never Xasthur's strong point, even from the very beginning, and everything (apart from the ambient tracks) has the same stately death-march trudge, the only real differing factor being whether Malefic has deigned to lay some vocals on it or not. Though to be honest, he sounds like someone coughing into the mic stand, and it's so low in the mix and infrequent you'll barely notice it. But here the lack of variety is excusable because the music still sounds fresh here, before Xasthur released six albums and countless splits of much the same thing but with infinitely less good riffs.

Grey areas about what on earth it actually is aside, A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors is some top-notch fare. It's just a little disheartening to know that nothing else by Xasthur has the same charm. Malefic ditched the fuzzy four-track tones of this for a dreary digital sound, one that sounded as if the hissing static had been added on later in order to “keep it true”. Even the low-budget, ghost train atmospherics of the keyboards are oddly lovable. The closing cover of Burzum's Black Spell Of Destruction sums it all up, with Malefic putting his own spin on the song and somehow making it oddly fun. Increasingly tired they may be these days, but for one brief moment back in 2001, Xasthur were something very exciting indeed. A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors is a cult (or should that be kvlt?) classic, and from experience I believe it's of high enough standard to convert even the most hardened hater.

Killing Songs :
James quoted no quote
Other albums by Xasthur that we have reviewed:
Xasthur - To Violate the Oblivious reviewed by Daniel and quoted 78 / 100
Xasthur - Telepathic with the Deceased reviewed by Daniel and quoted 85 / 100
1 readers voted
Your quote was: 99.
Change your vote

There are 7 replies to this review. Last one on Fri Jul 11, 2008 4:38 pm
View and Post comments