Archive for the ‘Leviathan’ Category

Leviathan — Scar Sighted

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

The latest release from USBM one-man project Leviathan has been a subject of great anticipation, especially after a couple of teasers were let loose very early on this year. The catalogue produced for Leviathan by musician Wrest (Jef Whitehead) over the course of 16 years has exhibited continuous evolution from something raw and within strict black metal delineations into works of a more sprawling, chaotic, and thought-provoking scope. Scar Sighted is a record that travels down the furthest reaches yet on this path, exceeding expectations with songs of seamlessly rich complexity, erupting violenty with the caustic and hateful energy that Leviathan is notorious for.

The album was produced by Wrest with Bill Anderson, whose name has appeared alongside great works by Swans, Agalloch and Pallbearer amongst others. There is no doubt as to the collaboration’s success, as Scar Sighted plays out its staggering density of ideas without falling into the void of a disjointed mess that metal bands so often disappear into when attempting something so ambitious. Whilst doing so, it continually remains rooted in its unseemly spirit of swirling, malevolent noise. The sound is uncluttered and possesses a superb clarity, with every stinging drop of the storm being felt at full intensity.

Scar Sighted is contemptuously defiant of the staunchest traditions of black metal, exploring what is beyond the horizon through piercing, demented genius. The closing passages of “The Smoke of Their Torment” are pure insanity. Clean guitars and vocals provide a totally unnerving experience the equal of any violent maelstrom of distortion and screams. Even in some of its most recent innovative incarnations, this trick is usually the old standard of creating idyllic and sensitive counterpoint amidst speed and sonic violence. There’s really no such trick in Leviathan’s world. This album is, uncompromisingly, the sound of spiritually reveling in a totally violent breakdown of inhibitive social paradigms.

The riffs are dissonant and chaotic in a way that would make the distinctive French stalwarts of the genre lose all control of bodily functions. The mania present in moments like those midway through “Gardens of Corprolite” are gloriously sickening with their dizzying speed and effortless lunacy. Even as melody closes out the track, it manages to sound as though there is the thought of something horrific being done to you.

The title track exemplifies the richness of ideas present across the entire record, transforming from epic vocal chanting drones into monolithic doom evocative of watching a comet of black ice splitting the Earth in twain. As particles of life extinguished spread languidly outwards into the cosmos, the music slows further, heightening the desolate and epic outpouring of feeling. Wrest has gone from lacing you mercilessly with sonic violence straight into producing some of the finest funeral doom around, and with far more point and emotion to it than simply showing you this is all just because he can pull it off. This is an amazing moment on the album. Then, with a herald of spoken word, it explodes back into an assault of brilliant old school BM riffs. The blistering climax dissolves into ambient smoky wisps of reversed guitars.

It is not just in the instrumental tones and styles present that Scar Sighted excels through diversity. Vocally, Wrest morphs like shadows from a flame ill at ease in the wind: ritualistic chants and deep throaty drones to reverberant shrieks, decimating low-end death growls, all the way through to wails of suffering and dementia. Alongside the instrumental prowess, the complete blend of the elements obtains vast dynamics and darkly kaleidoscopic nuance. To think that this tremendous noise is the writing and performance of a single person is astonishing.

Scar Sighted was released through Profound Lore Records last week. I send my best wishes to the world’s black metal musicians for the year ahead. You trvly have your work cut out for you surpassing this one.

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