It seemed a tad strange to find that the new 71-minute full-length from Malefic's XASTHUR was being released on Hydra Head. That is, until one considers that the lo-fi black metal atmospheres and dread-drenched trance of "Subliminal Genocide" is the kind of expansive, heady, and off-the-beaten path album in which the label specializes. Of course, the neuron-shredding trauma and palpable sense of malevolence heard on one of Malefic's one-man head-fuck excursions makes the series of Moribund releases just as unsurprising.
As for whether "Subliminal Genocide" will somehow miraculously convert fans who could never get "it" from past releases, well, it ain't gonna happen with "Subliminal Genocide". Impossibly distorted guitars and barely audible beats are used as two ingredients to create the sonic equivalent of stormy seas of mental anguish, bone-chilling drone, and Malefic's blood-curdling screams and agonizing moans. "Subliminal Genocide" is a descent further into the dark depths of human misery and the unearthing of the unspeakable acts committed in one's past that had for many years been suppressed. Freezing cold choir effects are heard throughout, the sorrowful moments almost a reprieve from Malefic's frightening yowls and distorted vitriol. Sometimes the dissonance and shrieks are so disconcerting as to knock off kilter one's equilibrium (refer to "Trauma will always Linger" if you don't believe me). Regardless, anything short of full, high-volume, absorption of "Subliminal Genocide" will not reveal the album's true power. It's a scary thought, but an essential component of the complete XASTHUR experience.
When the compositions transform the listener from fear-induced paralysis to suicidal depression, sometimes within the same song, with not a single ray of light shining through to give one hope, it becomes painfully obvious that "Subliminal Genocide" has had Malefic's intended effect. Though I've decided that I prefer some of XASTHUR's past works, based on the incorporation of a few more primal black metal elements (relatively speaking of course) and a hair less atmospheric drone (again, it's all relative), little by little "Subliminal Genocide" is growing on me. Many will fail to fully appreciate the man's work; a select few will gravitate toward "Subliminal Genocide" like a junkie does to a needle. Be careful with this one.