The Rickety Old Shack

Leviathan — The First Sublevel Of Suicide (2019 Reissue)

album cover

There is currently no information available regarding the intention behind this re-issue, but Portland's one-man black metal project Leviathan has seen fit to re-release its first series of demos, a collection titled The First Sublevel Of Suicide. The collection was first released in early December, 2017, and this new iteration contains almost twice as much material, pressumably including more demos and B-sides — from a ... demo album ... but I digress. After being thoroughly impressed with 2015's Scar Sighted (review), this new (to me) batch of material was mandatory listening.

Immediately, it becomes apparent that The First Sublevel Of Suicide is a much more stripped-down, "necro" affair. The production is pretty bare, although there was some consideration made for audio quality. The material is very primitive black metal, heavily reliant on blast beats and a buzzing wall of fairly indistinct guitars. The vocals are incomprehensible, distorted wretches. The tone and production 'quality' of the vocals reminds me of some cut-rate grindcore demos I made in 2003, with a banged-up Sony microphone — that was likely twice my age — which I'd found in my parents' basement. None of this I consider to be complimentary, though it seems as though this aesthetic was intentional so I guess technically it is...

The tracks all blend together, largely because very little stands out from one cut to the next. The musicianship is competent, but the tracks aren't memorable except for their unrelenting aggression and low-fi sound engineering. The drums dominate the mix, and the vocals take of most of the remaining room, leaving the guitars to just buzz in the background, drifting in and out. The bulk of these tracks are very long, too, with a pair of 10-minute songs, another running nearly 9-and-a-half minutes, and the shortest pieces clocking in at 5 minutes. If you're really into the inaccessibility and nihilism of the "kvlt" style of black metal, then this record is precisely what you're looking for.

Given the vast gulf in song-writing development from these tracks to the project's last album, The First Sublevel Of Suicide was quite jarring at first. These days, I don't spend much time listening to raw, low-fi black metal, and when I do I tend to stick with early Darkthrone when that (very uncommon) urge strikes. I joke that most "kvlt" black metal sounds like it was recorded on a tapedeck, and that's literally true in this case. Given this information, it's commendable that these tracks are listenable at all, even if they get very droning and monotonous in a very short time.

As a fan of the Leviathan project, this collection left me wanting. It's not a total waste of time, but I haven't grown any more fond of throwback black metal over the years. It's a taste I indulge infrequently, and do so with express intention. The First Sublevel Of Suicide isn't worthless, but it's not for me — and probably not for most metal fans. If you want a dose of early-aughts "kvlt" material, you could do much, much worse. If you want black metal with listenable production and tracks that feature at least a hint of nuance then I would suggest the later records in the Leviathan discography — this is not what you are looking for.

Summary

A reissue of demo recordings from 2002, The First Sublevel Of Suicide is a lengthy dose of no-frills, listener hostile black metal. Over an hour's worth of material, and little of it stands out during the listening process. Given how much Leviathan has expanded its song-wrtiting and recording quality, this is a huge step backward and the sort of record I only recommend to those who either want to know what I mean by "kvlt" black metal or those who intentionally seek it out. It's always interesting to hear a project's early material, but in the case of Leviathan it mostly serves to underscore how much better Wrest has gotten at his craft.

Album Information

Release date: March 12th, 2019
Record label: Independent

Wrest — everything

Track Listing

  1. Sardoniscorn
  2. The Bitter Emblem
  3. Scenic Solitude & Leprosy
  4. He Whom The Shadows Move Towards
  5. Mine Molten Armor
  6. The Idiot Son
  7. Fossils Of Hope
  8. From Crevice Rotten

Link: trvlvthn.bandcamp.com

—by Derek

Published: March 18th, 2019.