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Remastered and reissued in 2013 by Fallen Empire Records, this self-titled debut by the Colorado BM act is a mysterious and intriguing affair. Now more widely available than in 2011, when there were only 46 copies of the album available on cassette, the recording preserves its lo-fi origins in its production which lingers in a blurry no-man's zone that sounds equally amateurish yet polished in some respects. The recording combines straight-out raw black metal, dark space ambience and experimental drone in a way that hints at its sinister and perhaps misanthropic agenda.
Initially sounding quite primitive, hesitant and awkward, the music grows and develops through unstructured drone texture and blunt blackness into a sleek beast of splintery, spitting tremolo guitar riffs and a wildly roaring blizzard vocal. The depressive BM act Xasthur comes to mind in the desperate phantom voices but otherwise the music' style here is sharper and poses a strong contrast in sound to the faint vocals. At first the drumming isn't much to sing about but it's solid, steady and comes across as a deep ominous presence. In spite of the heavy bristling distortion, there's quite a lot of detail and variation in the music as it advances: the lead guitar is very squiggly, ascending hill and descending dale, and the drums start to mix rhythms and pace. The distorted voices keep on crying and wailing away and the music quickly becomes deranged and races off into a blind alley of its own panicky making. The energy and relentless insanity of this part of the recording make it a major highlight. Eventually the torment dies down into a low troubled droning cold-space ambience which leaves the listener deep in an isolated black vacuum, with nothing but feelings of dread and abandonment.
Track IV might be the oddest on the whole recording: its introduction seems to conjure up images of an abandoned fairground in which fairy ghosts float by and implore listeners to join before this is all washed away by corrosive rain showers of guitar, speedy percussion and more furry singing. The riffing is very melodic and surprisingly emotional, embracing hope, foreboding and desperation. This part of the recording is smartly presented, very sharp and highly aggressive. About a third of the way through the second half of the recording, the music becomes very bleak and doomy, the vocals howling in vain for relief, the vibrato guitars bleeding raw pained tones and the drums leading a funereal procession.
There's a final defiant blast of raw BM glory as unseen forces collect their power for one final chance to spew their bitterness and rage at an indifferent universe. Here the music aspires to a grand and rebellious majesty, as if challenging the very universe itself for dominion over all life within it.
The whole work is remarkable for its ability to express a range of emotions with limited instrumentation: raw distorted guitars, drums, bass and a sparing use of field recordings to suggest cold alien worlds of abandonment, disuse and ruin. In this environment the scuzzy voices find their calling: lost behind a solid wall of often fiery and blistering BM, melancholy-to-dismal near-doom passages, demented lead guitar and blast-beat drum psychedelia, soundscapes of decay, and deep black space, in their desperation the voices scream the pain and anguish of souls in eternal black torment. You come away with your nerves frayed and on edge at the dreadful fate these entities must have suffered, knowing that there you go but for the grace of God ... or Satan ...
Giygas is real, and he's using the entity known as Xothist to transmit his essence into our world.
Xothis play a bizarre, uncomfortable mixture of black metal, darkwave, and dark ambient. The first song features these clean guitars that play these slow, disjointed chords before transitioning into these dark ambient keyboards. I must say, those creepy clean guitars remind me of Belketre for some reason. The black metal is no slouch when it comes to creepy strangeness either. It's shrouded in this amorphous cloud of distortion that consumes all it comes across.
The drums are a slow-paced affair, and the double bass creates a murky, muddy foundation. The vocals are of a Xasthurian nature. They're agonized, shrouded in distortion, and sound like the screams of an eldritch horror. The guitars are just as dark and villainous. Some of the riffs have a depressive black metal feel. Other riffs remind me of the LLN. Others have a post-punk vibe to them. Overall, they present a perfect mix of anger, despair, and melody.
Finally, there are the dark ambient sections. The sounds Xothist uses conjure up different things for many people. For me, the dark ambient section on the third track reminds me of an abandoned quarry. The dark ambient section on track four brings to mind an abandoned playground. The grass is dead, the chains on the swing set have rusted away. These dark ambient elements are a perfect reflection of solitude, misery, and decay.
Xothist is the closest thing I've heard to a black metal manifestation of Giygas. It's dark, bizarre, unsettling, and completely incomprehensible. However, I love this band for its inventiveness. They managed to combine black metal with darkwave and dark ambient in a way that is unsettling and doesn't feel out of place or tacked on.
By being a debut release from a new artist, this album fares well. From the mystical soundscapes to the epic guitar riffs, this album has all that an astral black metal fan wants. The quality of this album is not good; I often hear too mush distortion and not enough instrumentation or vocals. The drums take control of the sound several times. But this is black metal…Who cares about sound quality? Even if what I hear is white noise all the time, the artist put it there for a reason. This demo only sounds like noise if I have it as quiet background music, or start listening half way into the song, however when I turn the volume to eleven, I enter into a different reality spawned by the guitar melodies and vocals.
Now onto the instrumentation, the intro track is only Dan on his guitar. The guitar play is not technical or fast, but creates a spooky, “out-of-this-world” atmosphere. He seems to know how to create emotional and surreal realities through his guitar work. This music is not something to listen to if the purpose is to get revved up for a basketball game, this music is to inspire artists to draw magical pictures, authors to write compelling novels, and musicians to step up their game.
Throughout the rest of the demo, I continue to hear the simple yet incredible guitar work spawned from Dan. The drums, whenever played, often dominate the tracks, and seem to remind me of punk rock. Hopefully later on in his career, Dan will be able to tune down the drums as what Darkspace has done.
As last thoughts go, this demo shows promise of a great black metal project. The drums are what keep my rating from perfect. The soundscapes are great in this demo, as is the guitar work. I will be looking forward to any new releases Xothist may record.