Looking at this months selection of reviews, I noticed that so far I've covered two traditional-metal albums, two power-metal, and one doom. Slightly on the non-extreme side, I feel, and thus, I'm setting out to balance out the month with something a bit more caustic. Leviathan are one of black-metal's more successful and productive one-man projects, and is certainly a candidate for one of the USA's finer black-metal outfits. The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide, his début, is where it all began.
There is something inherently non-European about Leviathan. Not quite identifiably so, but there's certainly a feel of otherness to it. Looking up the release date, I expected some point in the nineties, but in fact, this album dates from 2003, which took me reasonably by surprise. The album sounds very orthodox and pure, especially for it's relative age, but also possesses a twist to such a persuasion; The darkness which is carried by the music is different to that exuded by the themes of conventional black-metal. A bleak, poisoned darkness, with no God or Satan is conjured up by the album, and is driven home as much by the dark, melancholic sections, such as the ending of "The Bitter Emblem of Dissolve". The well-executed riffs, which carry the album along with a fairly mid-range level of rawness. The vocals tend to be shrieked and gurgled in a style much reminiscent of Maniac's performance with Mayhem, but also vary throughout the album, bringing together various elements and soundscapes, and it's beyond question that Wrest, the man behind it all, is not afraid to pick and choose styles to suit sections, such as the agonised murmuring and ghostly wailing in "Sardoniscorn". The variation perhaps shows his aptitude as a composer - the music is certainly a level of complexity above what most people could make entirely by themselves. He even did the artwork.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that drum-programming had been used in the album, but I'm informed apparently this is not the case; An electronic drum kit was used, but I enjoy the fact that even the drums have been played the old-fashioned way, and can certainly turn a blind eye to the way in which the kit has given them a very artificial feel. There's a real feeling of completeness from knowing that Wrest has done literally everything himself. The ambient influences and sections in the album are also particularly enjoyable, and add a lot of atmosphere, fortifying the eerie, angry, grim and caustic atmosphere generated by the instruments alone, and the sections which are chiefly ambient really decorate and make-whole the album, with creepy, often depressive vignettes between songs, and often between sections within songs really tying the whole thing together effectively.
Good United-states black metal is hard to come by, many will inform you. Personally, I think the nation has a lot to offer, albeit a lot of it rather hard to find, but even to those most in doubt of the nations capacity to produce decent black-metal, I'd like to think that this album is a good indicator that atleast one good black-metal outfit exists west of the Atlantic.
I'm going to give this a 9/10. It gets better with successive listens.
Leviathan on Metal Archives