02. Moon Shrouded in Misery, Pt. 1
03. Suicide in Dark Serenity
04. Dwelling Beneath the Woods
05. Cursed Be the Memory of Light
07. Spell Within the Winds
08. Storms of Red Revenge, Pt. 2
09. Storms of Red Revenge, Pt. 1
10. Eternal Empire of Majesty Death/Mütiilation Cover
11. Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors
12. Kingdom of Burning Crucifixions
13. Moon Shrouded in Misery, Pt. 2
14. Black Spell of Destruction/Burzum Cover
15. Lost Behind Bloodstained Mirrors
01. Conjuration of Terror [First Attempt w/O Vox]
02. Tyrant of Nightmares
03. Doomed by Howling Winds
04. Middle Ages Return
05. (What Became) The Funeral of Being
2008 Hydra Head Records
by Daniel Letchinger
Genocide is the ultimate goal, the ultimate dream as is the most fair and deserving thing to solve all the problems and hypocrisies of this world. We are all asking for it, whether we know it or not! – Malefic
Writing this review has proven to be far more difficult than I imagined it would be, as this is the first record by Xasthur I have had the privilege of hearing, and quite frankly, I am at somewhat of a loss for words. Recorded in 2000/01 and initially issued on a mere 150 CD-Rs, Hydrahead Records has remastered and released the definitive version of this "crucial transitional release in Xasthur's blackened oeuvre." For those of you new to this artist, Xasthur is the vehicle through which the notoriously solitary and unapproachable Malefic (née Scott Conner) communicates to the world an unending stream of hopelessness and utter despair. A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors is his crude, offal discharge: an austere and sparse collection of some of the most intensely depressing and hate-filled black metal there is.
Unlike some of the more prototypical examples of contemporary European/Norwegian black metal (I am thinking of bands like Marduk, Emperor, and Satyricon), Malefic channels his bleak visions through beautiful—albeit decidedly lo-fi—home recordings complete with layer upon layer of extremely fuzzy down-tuned guitar, bass, programmed drums, and an array of synths filtered through a miscellany of effects. There are few points during A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors where vocals feature prominently; Malefic's piercing, wraith-like howl seems reserved for only the most brutal and epic moments. Upon first listen, one can only marvel at the lushness of sound that Malefic is able to capture with such seemingly confining technology. His compositions demand patience of the listener, as songs tend to develop in a linear manner, slowly gathering momentum over time and often culminating in a frenzied apotheosis of suffocating doom. A simple melody played on either guitar or keyboards becomes submerged in a psychedelic wash of layered guitars and synths, through which singular themes emerge, disappear, and reappear. There is an operatic quality to A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors only realized through sustained listens of the work as a whole. My only qualm with the recording is that at times, the programmed drums leave a little to be desired in the creativity department.
With song titles like "Suicide in Dark Serenity" and "Kingdom of Burning Crucifixions," it is clear that thematically, Xasthur do not stray far from the ideas so eloquently conveyed in the epigraph to this review. "You may think I'm writing about my own misery," qouth Malefic in a recent interview, "but I'm really writing about yours." In a sense, A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors can be interpreted as a funeral dirge for the human race, a savage, mono-aural requiem of blackness.
Bottom Line: It is obvious why this album is being re-released: almost seven years ago, Xasthur delivered an intensely deep and accessible slice of black metal brutality in A Gate Through Bloodstained Mirrors. Don't let the quality of the recording dampen the listening experience, for a home recording actually brings an austere brand of bleak ambience to the black metal experience, further emphasizing the misanthropic doom captured therein. Do yourself the service of giving this record a listen.