Xasthur, ‘Defective Epitaph’ (Hydra Head)
California black-metal loner Xasthur, a.k.a. Scott Conner, emerged from relative obscurity with 2006’s Subliminal Genocide, releasing an opus whose weird, shoegazey atmospheres impressed hipsters while its intensity earned the United States cred in a scene dominated by Europeans. With the follow-up, however, Xasthur reminds us that he is in this for himself: Mixed into a pealing, clinically depressed haze, Defective Epitaph slogs through a universe few others would willingly visit, let alone inhabit. There are subtleties drifting in the maelstrom (for instance, the elegiac keyboards in “Cemetery of Shattered Masks”), but as with any music this isolated, you need headphones to hear them.