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Xasthur – Portal Of Sorrow(2010)

  • Review by: Ankit Baraskar

Portal Of Sorrow is the last album by the one man DSBM(depressive suicidal black metal) band Xasthur, since frontman Malefic decided that “all had been done as far as black metal was concerned, and that his music would mostly take a new direction outside of metal.” Probably one of the most influential bands in this genre, choosing not to be signed by any label, this album was anticipated eagerly and at the same time with some disappointment by Xasthur fans, since it would be the last. No exact song by song review for this one, for once you start listening to the album, you end up experiencing the whole thing, and not just parts of it. You get sucked into the “portal of sorrow”, so as to speak.

It starts off in a very subtle, melancholic fashion, with female backing vocals that add a somewhat gothic aspect to the whole thing, but without watering down the ambient black metal sound. The drum sound that starts with the second song could’ve been much better, but that would’ve involved sacrificing the “raw” and what Varg Vikernes of Burzum calls the “necro(nekkr0?)” feel. Still, the female and the male vocals have been mixed and varied masterfully throughout the album, and the overall effect is that of immense grandeur and beauty. Add to that the sombre, reedy sound of the organ and you have a “black metal epic” that narrates the story of Malefic’s end as a black metal artist. The female vocalist Marissa Nadler deserves a special mention, since she is not accustomed to being part of a black metal project as such, though her own work does fall somewhat into the ambient/shoegaze genre.

“Horizon Of Plastic Caskets” is sort of the crescendo for this release, as everything builds up to this song in a way. This sustains itself into the next one as well, called “Mesmerized by Misery”. The organs re-enter in the next song(damn, my song by song habit has resumed) “This abyss holds the mirror” marking the beginning of the end…together with Marissa’s vocals and Malefic’s esoteric growls makes it another attention-grabber. The “Mourning Tomorrow” and “Miscarriage Of The Soul” have folk-esque elements on the acoustic guitar that again showcase Malefic’s experimental side. After this the songs are nearer to the standard black metal fare, still with touches of avante-garde every now and then.

All in all, a solid album, though some might term it as minimalistic and lacking in technical wankery that has slowly but surely gained an upper hand in metal as compared to the raw feel of the music. But composition-wise solid and interesting, this release can be picked up even by non metal heads(especially post-rock/ambient fans). Go give it a listen. To know more about Xasthur, go to http://xasthurnews.blogspot.com/ . Happy(lol) listening. \m/