When you think of Xasthur in 2021, what do you envision? Images of a spectre haunting a dilapidated house? Someone looking like they’re dressed to rob a train? The One-Man Metal doc? While all of these would be accurate at certain times in the past, this is yet another proliferation of Xasthur, this time performing “funeral synth,” another offshoot of dungeon synth. On paper this sounds like it could either be fascinating or, like so much of the multitude of dungeon synth-adjacent acts (including the 14 or 15 that sprouted up while I typed that initial few sentences) a completely unnecessary bore. Which one is it?
I’d like to think I have better things to do with my time than write about boring music, but then again that’s why comments sections exist-to tell me how fucking wrong I am.
But this isn’t just about Xasthur’s innate ability to shift shapes, it also tells a story of another project, a pioneer in American black metal (for reference I’m talking about Ritual and I highly recommend their second record, Demonic Winter Metal) and dungeon synth who made his return under the Casket of Dreams moniker last year after over 20 years since his Dragons of Autumn Twilight release on Wild Rags. These two artists have a long, intertwined history so the idea of a collaboration like this feels natural even if the genre seems unlikely at first glance until you realize Xasthur records have, from the beginning, contained this very style of synth work.
If I had to pin down a single descriptive term for this record it would have to be “authentic.” Whereas you’ll come across a billion instrumental records with “horror” in the byline The Hallucination Tunnels actually conjures up a true ghastly experience that very few (if any) projects are able to accomplish. It genuinely feels like a collaboration of both minds and their inventive styles rather than two guys in a room doing whatever they want without a proper discussion on where they want to go. It’s easy to approach a record like this with mixed (if not low) expectations but if you’re a fan of either gentleman’s work or dungeon — sorry, funeral — synth in general then I assure you this will be one of your favorite releases this year.
The Hallucination Tunnels and its horrors are spread via Appalachian Noise Records (CD & LP) May 14 and soon after through Ancient Meadow on cassette (while you’re there I recommend the Mortwight/Moorgrave split they just released).