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A Great Listen At First - 79%

CosmicChrisTV, November 18th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2004, CD, Total Holocaust Records

To Violate The Oblivious is one of Xasthur's greatest albums. If his number one album would be Subliminal Genocide, this would be his number two album. The atmosphere of this album gives off the exact same feeling I get when I listen to Subliminal Genocide. For those not familiar with that particular album, I have 3 words that perfectly describe this atmosphere I'm talking about: cold, traumatic, depressive.

As always, Malefic never fails to give his songs the most depressing titles. That is something I consider important, because there are many depressing song titles when it comes to the entire genre of depressive black metal. Xasthur's titles seem to have their own sort of style to them. What I basically mean by that is once you read any of his titles, if you've heard his music once, you'd instantly know it was one of his titles. I also consider it important because every single title helps add to the dark atmosphere of the album.

So... what about the actual music of this particular album? The guitars are kind of like a noise wall and the keyboards are some of the darkest ambience sequences I've ever heard. When I say that the guitars are like a noise wall, I certainly do not mean that the production value is bad. It's hard to describe in words what I mean. You'd have to listen to the album for yourself to understand.

The drums are not very fast. Instead, they are slow and dark, but that is to be expected when it comes to Xasthur. However, at some points of the album, I believe I heard double bass drums. That was unexpected and pretty cool. He also uses a lot of the same drum patterns in the album though, which is kind of a let down. The guitar is mostly simple chords. Nothing too special about it in particular. However, I like it. Not everything needs to be complex to be good. Plus, it's not like you can use power chords only and still make it sound like sad music. The guitar playing in general is slow and melodic.

The distorted guitar tone has just the right amount of gain. It also has high mids and high treble frequencies. The tone given to the bass guitar is almost unidentifiable, because once again Malefic made the bass nearly impossible to hear. From what I can make out, the bass sounds like it has the mids scooped and that's it. The production value is pretty good in terms of black metal standards. The atmosphere of the album is amazing. The atmosphere reminds me of winter. It's a very cold, dark, and depressing atmosphere. I love that so much.

Malefic's vocals are as if they were recorded from the depths of hell. He has a bit of a unique vocal style where he drags out most of the words he speaks. All of this is quite an experience to listen to. However, each song seems to follow a formula and eventually, after listening to the album multiple times, it can get pretty boring and predictable. Regardless of this, it is an amazing listen the first time.

My favorite track off of this album would have to be Dreams Blacker Than Death. If it weren't for the fact that this album grows boring the more you listen to it, I would definitely give it a higher rating. The best part of the album is definitely the depressing guitar and the vocals. The worst part of the album is the drums, but that doesn't mean they're awful. They're just a bit too simple for my taste.

Still Xasthur - 88%

BlackMetal213, July 28th, 2015

This album really isn't at all different from any of Xasthur's previous releases. It's cold, haunting, eerie, and atmospheric. It's basically Scott "Malefic" Connor doing what he does best. This album is yet another portal into the abyss that is the mind of the depressed soul persona that is indeed Xasthur. While Scott really doesn't do anything new here, and tends to rehash old ideas and atmospheric sounds from the previous releases, this is an example of unoriginality done right. Xasthur has already established his unique style of depressive suicidal black metal. Because he's already established his own unique formula, he really does not have to step outside his comfort zone to really make an effective album. "To Violate the Oblivious" is definitely Xasthur, and it's still definitely good.

"Telepathic with the Deceased" was a very good, depressing album. It captured the atmosphere of a gray depressive abyss, and was extremely effective, as with most Xasthur albums, at altering the listener's mood to match the music. Seriously, Xasthur can take you on an emotional roller coaster and is definitely a band that can alter what you're feeling. It can do so in a weird way. If you're happy and you listen to this, you may retain your happiness. If you're depressed, it can match your depression. However, if can also either cure your depression or change your happiness into such. "To Violate the Oblivious" is the same way. The guitars on this album are played in the familiar Xasthur style. They are extremely dissonant in tone, and sickeningly melodic. Tracks like "Xastur Within" capture that classic atmosphere we get from Xasthur's music. This album also has quite a few instrumentals, with "Apparitional Void of Failure" perhaps being the darkest song on the entire disc, although really, it's hard to say that about any of the tracks. Every song is extremely dark and depressing, as they should be. Although my absolute favorite song on the album has to be the closer, "Walker of Dissonant Worlds". Accompanied by an equally depressing music video, this instrumental number features some gorgeous, simplistic riffs and a solo-like lead guitar. These buzzing guitar parts intertwine with one another to create a melodic wall of sound that is completely typical of Xasthur.

The vocals are just as hateful and spiteful as ever. Judging by the sound and sheer intensity of his wretched vocals, it seems like Scott really had some deep emotional trauma and psychological issues when he was making black metal. This is not his best vocal performance in my opinion, but it certainly is a commendable and effective one. His vocals sound especially hateful on the rerecorded "A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors". However, I'm really not completely satisfied by the song itself. Scott's vocals are great, but the overall atmosphere of the original song from the demo of the same name was much better. I really don't see the point of re-recording this classic song. In fact, without this song, the album would still be amazing and not at all hindered by its absence. Definitely not a bad track, but it doesn't really do the original justice musically.

While this album certainly is very good, it is a slight digression from the previous Xasthur efforts in terms of quality. The atmosphere is still there and the music is still as haunting as ever, but it may seem redundant at times. Definitely not a perfect album, but a recognizable Xasthur release, and a must have for the fans.

Drips With Atmosphere - 100%

OrbitalGait, July 25th, 2014

Xasthur, is musically a form of it's own, independent art. Emotionally it varies, yet musically it's always the same. Imagine being buried in a cold coffin, beneath forest soil, in precisely, the middle of nowhere. You're on your own, confined in claustrophobic space. After you panic all your breath out, you're left with nothing but the sense of awareness, that you're weak and hopeless. This is what this record wants to put you into. Unlike many depressive suicidal black metal records, this one isn't limited to generic topics about angst and sadness. This record puts you on a schizophrenic journey to Malefic's mind where you're ought to feel lost and merely able to resist it's drain of your sanity.

It is obvious, that this record has been written for you to listen in the dark. There's no other way around it, and it's nowhere near as effective, emotionally. The ghastly vocals that whisper yet screech make use of your dark environment by embracing you with their coldness, and as unpopular of an opinion this may be, I strongly prefer this form of vocals over many heard through depressive suicidal black metal, Silencer being a great example. Rather than aimlessly screaming, Malefic explores into his own, unique vocal style. As mentioned before, there's a variety of actual styles being used. It ranges from haunting whispers, to eerie screeches, that still keep the atmosphere intended, and are very easy to listen to, despite their harsh nature.

The instrumentation is almost flawless, but any note missed whether it is the drums or the lead, makes it feel much more organic. Within it's dark themes, it progresses from fear, to paranoia, then proceeds to depression and calmly leaves off with what could be closely compared to as an existential crisis. The instrumentation follows all of those themes perfectly; the tempos are set out, composed and timed perfectly with the said themes, the aggression found in the guitars and the vocals, or even the soft ringing guitar instrumental finale. Themes of fear, as heard on songs like 'Marked By Shadows', are accompanied by fast double bass with aggressive tremolo picking, whereas themes of paranoia have slow, ringing, atmosphere-building guitars to go with them. All those themes, with their own musical themes, make the album without a doubt one of the most unforgettable and emotional experiences that black metal, let alone depressive suicidal black metal, has to offer, as a whole.

No masterpiece, not even close - 50%

HS, June 12th, 2009

Xasthur must be one of the most overrated bands in today's black metal scene. I honestly tried to understand what is so great about this band or this album before I finally realised that the answer is "nothing". Well, let's say "almost nothing". There might indeed be some good parts in the songs which I could remember if I wouldn’t fall into sleep every time I'm listening to them.

Well okay, it's not AS bad, but just incredibly mediocre. Its monotonous (but not in a good way, like using hypnotizing riffs and drum patterns to achieve some kind of trance-inducing effect and so on) and boring, and hardly contains any highlights. There are two or three mediocre riffs in a song that are repeated on and on and nothing happens at all. That would be acceptable if the riffs or melodies were memorable and interesting, but I don't find anything special in these songs. I also don't like the sound of the drums, which are made by computer and don't sound very good or natural at all. The vocals - a trademark of Xasthur, consist of distorted, hateful, almost incomprehensible screams and are actually okay.

For me, the first song "Xasthur Within", the dark and eerie "Apparitional Void of Failure", and the sorrowful instrumental "Walker Of Dissonant Worlds" are the only songs that stand out on this album. If there were more decent songs like these, and a real drummer, I'd maybe give it a higher rating.

However, there are Xasthur releases that I like more than this one (for example "Suicide In Dark Serenity" or the split with Leviathan) but my opinion remains the same: this band is highly overrated.

Solid - 100%

Sharkbait, January 8th, 2008

I’ve been a huge fan of Xasthur since Telepathic With the Deceased. Out of all of Xasthur’s releases, this one stands out to me as his best work. In my opinion, some of his best songs are on it.

Malefic takes you on a journey through despair, anger and sadness with nine incredible tracks. The album is begins in an Intro. It is slow and somewhat soothing. Very beautifully done. It is interrupted with the sudden rush of guitar and vocals from Xastur Within, which is a faster and angrier song. This song gives me mental images of a chaotic blizzard, and no hope for warmth. My favorite song from this album is Dreams Blacker Than Death. It starts out with a slow drum beat working its way into a tortured scream from Malefic, with a melancholic keyboard in the background. It ends up in a slow setting, with hums of a symphony behind the guitars. It ends with the drums stopping, and the guitars going into a muffled silence. It is truly an excellent song.
Later in the album, Malefic re-introduces a track from Xasthur’s notorious demo. A Gate through Bloodstained Mirrors is beautifully performed. He made a classic song of his more of an essential for listeners. The album is finished off with an incredibly beautiful track called Walker of Dissonant Worlds. It is a powerful wall of guitars. Gives me the feeling of being tired, or at rest I suppose.
I think the keyboard work on this album is excellent. It doesn’t stand out too much, and it isn’t hidden. The drums are in the background along with the keyboard, which is a good thing. It gave the album a more distant feeling, for me.

Over all, To Violate the Oblivious is absolutely flawless. It is perfect in every way.
I highly recommend you buy it.

To Violate The Oblivious - 87%

Nargaz, May 19th, 2007

To Violate The Oblivious is a journey through the darkest shadows of the human (or, more specifically, Malefic's) mind. The production is the expected cold, dark, and generally hateful static which Xasthur is known for. The most noticeable aspect is the vocals, which are as distorted as the guitars. This gives the effect of Malefic being less human than the listener. He sounds tortured by just existing in the human world, where he doesn't seem to belong. The agonizing screams he gives off have a slight echo, making the atmosphere more cavernous and empty (in a good way). The guitars are (along with the keyboards) the driving instrument of the songs, and are usually mid-paced and melodic. What I really liked was the hypnotic repetition, which lures you into the darkness and holds you there. The drums are more in the back, but this is a good thing, over done drumming would ruin the atmosphere.

Overall this is a very cold and depressing album, bringing you into a state of mind where you wonder if there is any sense in continuing your existence here.

Doesn't Age Well. - 65%

Perplexed_Sjel, April 4th, 2006

Xasthur are infamous. No matter what opinion is given on this band, their music will forever remain in the minds of black metal fans world wide. To me, there are a certain few bands that, despite the opinions of the public, will always live on in the memory of fans of black metal, even after they’ve long since gone. Xasthur are included in that list. Regardless of your own opinion, or my personal opinion, Xasthur are legendary. Bands like Velvet Cacoon and Weakling also must be included in this list of bands that no one will ever forget. On a personal level, no that it matters much, I’ve never taken to Xasthur. I’m a fan of ‘To Violate The Oblivious’, the record I am re-reviewing, but even after two years since my initial review, I’ve never taken to their sound. I’m not entirely sure why that is either.

To a small degree, the production has always put me off, which is odd considering I’m a fan of bands/records with terrible lo-fi production (‘Transilvanian Hunger’ as an example, perhaps?) but the Xasthur sound has never appealed to me that much before. To me, on the surface of things, ‘To Violate The Oblivious’ is a much different record than any other Xasthur product. Despite the distortion that is evidently included in this record, the production is cleaner and allows the atmospheric tendencies to seep through far more easily than ever before. Previous Xasthur efforts, such as ‘Nocturnal Poisoning’ have been incredibly bleak and didn’t allow the bass to figure at all, the drums to do anything substantial other than to offer the audience a semblance of blast beasts and cymbals crashing away in the distance and the vocals completely overshadowed what ambience and atmosphere there was, in my opinion. All this because of the atrocious production which led me to question the song writing. ‘To Violate The Oblivious’ is a tad different, as stated, it has a much cleaner sound, which is more beneficial to the soundscapes that Xasthur entertain their audience with. The most monumental song on ‘Nocturnal Poisoning’, to me, was ‘A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors’. This song, fortunately for me, has been included in the track listing for this record and has a much improved production which allows the elements that strike a chord most with me to showcase the talents that Xasthur obviously do possess, but just don’t show enough.

This record, in my humble opinion, is the best Xasthur have to offer. So, if you’re looking to take a look at what this American act is all about, then I suggest firmly that you begin here and end your journey here. Why? This record has the most to offer the audience. It consists of the best elements the other full-lengths have and much more new and appealing aspects that don’t draw on too many negatives. The production, which I will harp on about, allows the keyboards to take hold of the ambience that evolves in and around the songs. Whilst the bass, once again, isn’t easily distinguishable from the rest of the material, with the vocals being somewhat overpowering again, it isn’t necessary to the atmospheric styling of Xasthur. ‘To Violate The Oblivious’ also doesn’t offer much in the way of percussion, which is disappointing. The theme is blast beats and the aim is repetition. Whilst, as a black metal fan, I am accustomed to repetition, the other elements of instrumentation (especially the guitars) must take a firm grip on my emotions in order to go down well with me, ‘To Violate The Oblivious’ does not exactly do this to it’s full potential.

Songs like ‘A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors’ and ‘Apparitional Void Of Failure’ do conjure up the bleakest of emotions and the most desolate and sorrowful images, which is where Xasthur’s music really excels, but this is too few and far between for my liking. Much of the material seems mediocre in comparison to the USBM acts out there, let alone on a global sense. The vocals, which are rasping, aren’t best suited to the atmospheric style of Xasthur. They possess no qualities which make me believe they add anything significant to the soundscapes, instead, they detract from them. Particularly the bass section and even with good headphones, which I am glad to say I have, bass isn’t that easy to pick out. The overriding theme of combining the blast beats with the shockingly shrill vocals isn’t necessary. However, of course, there are times when brilliance does take hold. The vocals can and do play an integral part of the Xasthur sound, take the ending of ‘A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors’ and you’ll understand what I mean. Those bleak shrills do encompass the sorrow that black metal often revolves around and alongside the ambience of the keyboards, which are often the best part of the record, they fit well together but as one might expect, it’s all rather short lived.

My knowledge of black metal has grown a lot since I first wrote a review for this record and it hasn’t stood the test of time unfortunately. I too was once a very impressionable young metal fan, but as you grow up and as you delve deeper into the metal scene, you find more and more bands that you dislike. There are aspects of this record that I do greatly appreciate, but there aren’t many of them.

Formulaic and predictable - 45%

mornox, September 11th, 2004

I’ll open this review with a sentence that is about as clichéd as the material on this disc: ‘Oh, how the mighty have fallen’. This album could have easily been called ‘Been there, done that’. There’s preciously little here that hasn’t been done before in a better way on Nocturnal Poisoning, Funeral of Being or any of Xasthur’s split cd’s.

You’ll hear the same melancholy Burzum-inspired base with Mütiilation-inspired overlayed accoustic and bass guitars and Manes-inspired backing keyboards. There is one slight change though, in that there are some Katatonia-inspired lead-parts spiralling around some of the bass-progressions from time to time, but again nothing we haven’t heard before. The only other difference is that the ideosynchrasies of his earliest releases that managed to still make his songs sound slightly original are practically absent here. The production is cleaned up significantly over his old albums and leaves nothing to the imagination. And then there’s the drum machine which uses the exact same drum-patterns as every other Xasthur song. If you’re familiar with Xasthur, you’re guaranteed to know exactly what type of fills will show up between riff-segments. This is extra noticeable due to the fact that the drums are given more attention in the mix, another grave mistake. The vocals are more upfront and forcefully vicious and are one of the few improvements over previous works. Still they really can’t save this album from abject mediocrity.

For while the riffs and embellishments are basically recycled from his back-catalogue, this isn’t the album’s great damning flaw. There have been other bands which recycled riffs while still coming up with somewhat interesting songs. No, where this album goes completely down the drain is in its overly formulaic and utterly predictable song structures. Seriously, the very first time I listened to this I could accurately predict how the songs would progress. Opening melancholic riff repeats between four to eight phrases with a mid-tempo drum pattern, then slows down a bit while adding some bass and keyboards for a spell to denote some kind of agony, then a new riff emerges over a sped-up drumbeat to show despair mixed with some kind of determination, followed by a slower bridge or a drumless echoing burzum-riff invoking final tragedy, return to the opening riff and so on ad nauseum for basically every song.

This is for all intents and purposes a thoroughly washed down, bland, simplistic and predictable rendition of Nocturnal Poisoning. And since that album was somewhat of a tribute to Burzum and Mütiilation, that makes this a retread of a retread. A pale copy of a shadow of greater bands. It competely disgusts me to see how a once respectable artist sacrifices his artistic integrity for this mass-produced, imaginationless, mediocre trash. I’ll definitely pass on this musician from now on and I suggest the reader to only bother with ‘A Gate through Bloodstained Mirrors’, ‘Nocturnal Poisoning’, ‘Suicide in Dark Serenity’ and maybe, if you really like these, ‘The Funeral of Being’. Forget everything else and especially this release.