Leviathan — Scar Sighted
Black metal is a very niche, underground genre of music — and that is putting things mildly. The calling cards of black metal projects are caustic, brutal music, nihilistic philosophies and an aversion to anything remotely resembling commercial interest. Black metal lives in the shadows and thrives there; fully cognizant of its decision, it lies in wait for those brave — possibly even foolish — enough to chase after it. Despite having an extensive discography, Leviathan was unknown to me until recently. Returning after a four-year hiatus with a new full-length album in Scar Sighted, this was my introduction to the project.
After a short, atmospheric introduction, Scar Sighted wastes precious little time — assaulting the listener with some incredibly intense music. The craftsmanship of the material is really striking, given the sheer aggression of the music; it's relatively easy to churn out a bunch of 260bpm songs of noise and call yourself "brutal." Leviathan dropped a record filled with a diverse selection of songs, all incredibly heavy and aggressive, yet varied in execution. The inclusion of atmospheric interludes, spoken word samples, and melodic passages — like the beautiful, simple guitar solo that ends "Gardens of Coprolite" — doesn't feel forced, but rather necessary to truly appreciate the brutality.
Leviathan is touted as a chiefly black metal project, so I was caught off guard by the death metal influences at first; that was minor — and ultimately pleasant — surprise. Scar Sighted mixes the dissonant essence of black metal with the technicality — and generally higher production aesthetic — of death metal into a wholly original configuration. From the opening track, "-" through to the end of the second song,"The Smoke Of Their Torment," you will get a really clear idea of what's in store for you on the rest of this album. The overall feeling one gets from Scar Sighted is that of frantic torment; there's a general unease to each song that is difficult to describe, though I imagine reading the writings of the clinically insane may compare.
To be brief, Scar Sighted is a monolith of insanity and twisted musical creativity. Leviathan is a one-man operation that continually pushes the philosophy of black metal into some really dark places — blending a thick layer of Satanic themes with a Lovecraftian feeling of growing madness in the face of inconceivable horror. Even as a fan of post-black metal, as well as the "kvlt stuff," it's difficult to peg exactly where Scar Sighted lands on the spectrum of blackened musicality. The varied guitar tones, and mix of growled vocals, shrieks, screams and wretched grunts make it impossible to neatly put this album under a genre label. Calling Scar Sighted "experimental black metal" feels like a cop-out, but it's the best I can do.
Mood-wise, Scar Sighted shifts between passages of all-out savagery and brooding terror. Reserved, but not-quite-calm moments litter the album, though the material is sinister and dark at all times. "Garden Of Corprolite" and the album's closer, "Aphonos," are two of the album's more melodic tracks, though one would do well to keep in mind the extreme context of this album when considering what 'melodic' entails. Leviathan make uncomfortable music, in general; there is a dissonant, off-kilter feeling that permeates the album from beginning to end.
The main reason I am such a big proponent of listening to full albums is the ability to get a real sense of what a band or artist has to offer. Leviathan put together a really diverse collection of darkly engaging tracks, showcasing the depth and breadth of extreme music in general. Whether it's the crushing, old-school black metal riffing of "Within Thrall," or the tortured, restrained soundscape of "Wicked Fields Of Calm," Scar Sighted manages to be consistent in both approach and unnerving in terms of tone and feel. One really needs to take in the album as a whole to properly evaluate Leviathan's offering — the opening tracks are a primer, but there is a lot of depth here.
This record is absolutely not for the feint of heart; this is extreme, brutal music, albeit very refined in musicianship and production. Scar Sighted is an album that speaks to the intricacies of extreme music; even if you're not a proponent of this sort of thing, the construction of these songs is impressive to behold. The variety in the songs, despite adhering to a framework of extremity and caustic abrasion, is remarkable. There are countless albums I would consider "violent," and most of them aren't very good; Leviathan compiled over an hour of quality, engaging material.
Another solid addition to the field of experimental, extreme music. Scar Sighted is a stand-out release in a year of numerous stand-out metal records. Leviathan are classified as a black metal project, but Scar Sighted melds countless influences — without blatantly wearing them like a T-shirt — into a terrifyingly unique offering. If you're tired of mindless brutality, excessively low-fi trash masquerading as authentically "evil" music, then look no further. Everything about this record is first-rate: production, song-writing, even the artwork is a mixture of disturbing and talented. I strongly recommend metal fans give Scar Sighted a listen.
Release date: March 3rd, 2015
Record label: Profound Lore Records
Wrest — music, vocals
- The Smoke Of Their Torment
- Dawn Vibration
- Garden Of Corprolite
- Wicked Fields Of Calm
- Within Thrall
- A Veil Is Lifted
- Scar Sighted
- All Tongues Inward
Published: November 10, 2015