Hail the return — and the demise — of Xasthur, one of the grimmest and most important artists in contemporary American Black Metal. Portal of Sorrow is his final work under the title, and a more fitting title could not be applied, as Xasthur grinds the dark and miserable story to a close in truly regal, unholy fashion. Joined on vocals by Marissa Nadler, the sulfuric scald of Xasthur’s guitar is tempered with thoughtful, deep-hued arrangements that sound as much a part of cinematic history (“Broken Glass Christening” gives a nod to Hitchcock’s favored composer, Bernard Herrmann, in more than the obvious ways) as it does a relevant and resolute piece of metal history. Forlorn, decrepit, and vile, the music on Portal of Sorrow lapses into dark ambient shudder, the bone chill of Gothic splendor, and the impure carnival of neo-folk exhibitionism.   A throne of ribcages smashed in petulant defiance, this final act stands as Xasthur’s ultimate statement, filled with virulent hatred and disgust and rendered in the most exquisite of ways, aconundrum that slowly dilates into a remarkable piece of music that transcends its genre.

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