Belief and hope and love are dead!
Malign was a short-lived darkwave music project led by a San Francisco goth going by the name of Xavier Haight. In 1993, he formed a record label, Anubis Records, and on it he released a compilation of songs from San Francisco goth/darkwave bands called "The Disease of Lady Madeline," which included early Bay Area third-wave goth bands such as Switchblade Symphony, John Koviak's Sub Version, one of the first appearances of Faith and The Muse, Mephisto Walz, Xorcist, Stone 588 and several other bands who have remained relatively unknown since (e.g., Fata Morgana and Kill Sister Kill (Gladys!)), in 1994. It also included two songs from Malign, both of which also appeared on its first album, "Shatter and Impale".
At this time, Haight was regarded as something of a major figure in the west coast goth scene. He certainly looked the part, with flawless whiteface, elaborate black eyeliner and lipstick, and black hair that was teased up to a respectable height, as was the style at the time. He seems to have been quite reclusive, however; a Google image search shows only the cover of the one album he released and a couple dozen other, unrelated pictures. He appeared, as Malign, on the Apparition Tour of the United States during the autumn of 1996, along with Faith and The Muse, Das Ich, Sunshine Blind, Switchblade Symphony, London After Midnight, Ichori and others. This was, however, mostly Malign's only national exposure beyond the release of "Shatter and Impale," the only album Malign would ever release, and one of only two releases that Anubis Records would produce. That album first appeared in 1996 and quickly became a collector's item due to its small print run and subsequent rarity. It went out of print years ago (as did "The Disease of Lady Madeline"), but now and then you'll see it for sale on various websites for upwards of $50 (USD).
The music of "Shatter and Impale," such as it is, seems rather unremarkable for darkwave, at least by the standards of a decade later. Indeed, darkwave as a musical genre seems to have more or less disappeared as more and more bands produce EBM, futurepop, gothic rock and good ol' industrial music, all of which were components of darkwave. All the songs on "Shatter and Impale" were composed by Haight, with assistance from William Faith (of Faith and The Muse), who helped with some arrangement; Brad Beaver (no, really), who provided some additional drum arrangements; Ramón Bretón, who mastered the final product; and Chad Blinman, who mixed it and helped Haight program and sequence it as well as co-produced the album in the studio.
My latter-day reassessment of Malign's music is a little weird; I was very into "Shatter and Impale" when it was current. I remember searching high and low for a copy and finding none, until visiting Digital Underground in Philadelphia in June 1997 and finding a copy for sale there. I recall the excitement I felt at the time. I guess I was overreacting.
Anyway, the front cover of "Shatter and Impale" features a starkly-photographed stone cherub, no doubt from some particularly gloomy cemetary somewhere, while the back cover shows a tight close-up of Xavier Haight himself, with the tracklist superimposed over part of the left side of his face. It reads:
- Erode (4:27)
- The Diseased and the Blind (3:57)
- Skin and Lye (4:42)
- Encapsulate (4:42)
- Shards of Glass (5:55)
- The Eternal Corridor (5:20)
- Online (4:29)
- Strapped Down (3:47)
- Charging the Weapon (5:12)
- Away (4:43)
- Reliance (2:57)
In retrospect, as I mentioned, the music is not that impressive. The drum arrangements are weak compared to modern sequencing while overutilising treble and including rather impotent bass effects; the same effect samples are overused (particularly on track #2, but all over the rest of the album as well); and the vocals are a bit too reminiscent of Claus Larsen (Leæther Strip). Despite all this, "Shatter and Impale" was very popular for a couple of years in the late 1990s, receiving regular club play (back before most goth clubs transitioned into industrial/electronic music clubs in the early 2000s with the rise of synthpop, industrial rock, aggrotech and powernoise, and the associated cybergoth movement).
Xavier Haight himself seems to have all but disappeared. A quick Google search for his name returns only 51 hits, and most of them are just mentions of the Apparition Tour from 1996, small mentions of the CDs he produced (don't forget about "The Disease of Lady Madeline" compilation that preceded "Shatter and Impale"), and occasional namedrops on various goths' blogs, one of which says that Xavier and his partner Shawni Sullivan have been managing goth clubs, among them the infamous Roderick's Chamber, in San Francisco for over a decade. So he's apparently not dead; he seems to have merely faded back into the shadows from whence he came.
He does, rather surprisingly, maintain a MySpace page, where he professes that Malign and Anubis Records are in fact still alive (despite all evidence to the contrary and no new material from either in twelve years as of this writing), probably much to the surprise of all who had forgotten him: