A fucking bludgeoning blast of classic industrial noise rock from British band Skullflower, their 1990 album Xaman has long been one of the most elusive of all of the band's early releases, sought after by collectors for years and hard to find due to the fact that the original pressing of the album (which came out on Shock Records) were stricken with a case of something called "disc rot", a pressing defect that caused many (and possibly all) of the CDs to deteriorate and be rendered largely unplayable. Some seemed to think that the album would disappear completely, thinking that the original master has also been lost in the decades that followed, but lo and behold, Xaman has indeed been resurrected as part of this new reissue series, now newly re-mastered, and it's definitely one of the heaviest of all of these early Skullflower discs. At this point in their career, Skullflower had evolved into something not too far removed from their pals in Godflesh, a kind of sludgy, noise-drenched hypno-rock that would often be underscored by crushing distorted bass guitar and pummeling, trance inducing drumming, and you can hear how this stuff would have been at least a minor influence on the sort of sprawling apocalyptic heaviness that Neurosis would develop into later on in the following decade. Xaman would also prove to be the last Skullflower album to feature the lineup of Matthew Bower, Alex Binnie (Pure / Zos Kia), Stuart Dennison (Ramleh) and Shock Records boss Stefan Jaworzyn (Ascension / Whitehouse / Shock Xpress).
Opening with the shambling effects-drenched horror of "Slaves", Xaman gets really heavy really quickly, dropping this lurching two-chord noise rock dirge down a shaft into a pit of shrieking feedback and extreme stompbox overload, a monstrous droning riff plowing through the bands oppressive fog of malfunctioning amplifers and wailing delay-soaked leads. Classic hypno-sludgery, producing an utterly wrecked trance-state of gluey bass-heavy dirge and squalls of zonked-out guitar noise. Listening to this, you can hear where Brainbombs could very well have taken a big chunk of their sound from. The following song "Sunset" erupts into a Technicolor vomit blast of demented space rock guitar-fug and burnt psychedelic tones, a short but gorgeous piece of extreme lysergic psychedelia. The title track returns to that lumbering monotonous heaviness and fucked-up guitar skronk, Skullflower founder Matt Bower howling somewhere way off in the background, his tuneless yowl drifting crazily through the dense rumbling mass of improv fret-board scrape and churning concrete-mixer bass. Weirdly crushing and industrial-tinged, the song slips off into long stretches of aimless amp noise and creepy effects shimmering through the air like dark wraiths. Gary from Ramleh contributes his own primal howl to "What Did You Expect?", a more free-from blat of drugged-out heaviness that sort of resembles one of Hawkwind's more experimental, improvisational jams, but it's shot through with a ton of dark, abrasive noise, like a spaced out industrialized free-jazz meltdown draped in grinding, heavily distorted guitars. Stuart Dennison handles the vocals on "The Shit Hits The Fan", and this might be the album's heaviest song, a pounding industro-dirge and another one of those old Skullflower songs that could actually pass for something from early era Godflesh, if that band had been prone to absolutely skull-destroying levels of cyclonic guitar noise and wah-overloaded psych shred. A single pounding monotonous riff and almost mechanical drumbeat cuts a brutal swathe through the band's maelstrom of crazed layered vocals and atonal guitar noise, the "riffs" screeching and skronking like stray fragments from a Sonny Sharrock session, erupting into some of the nastiest freeform shred ever. The last two tracks are just as warped, "Barbed Wire Animal" featuring another crushing droning groove cut through the sprawl of wild guitar noise and effects, and then it ends with the monstrous, nearly half hour long "Wave",
featuring a guest appearance from Pure/Zos Kia member Alex Binnie on bass guitar, another massive lumbering psych-dirge , a sprawling dronerock workout that gets blasted with some seriously scorching wah-wah abuse and flesh-blackening feedback.
As with the other Skullflower reissues in Shock's Kino series, this disc comes in a glossy, four-panel digi-sleeve that features new album artwork taken from Matt Bower's archives, the disc housed in a printed inner-sleeve, and also includes a glossy booklet that reproduces the original album cover art and features liner notes written by the band along with a smattering of vintage record reviews and old interviews. Essential.