Review Summary: The first truly great Leviathan album stands heads and shoulders above the wrest.
Jeff Whitehead (Wrest) may not have given US black metal a name, but he did give it a voice. Slinking under the noses of outlier genre fans, his influence has been muted by other acts that have been deemed household names. By now the success and praise of black metal progenitors Weakling has been written in stone, with the west coast group being deemed the founders of the regional sound. However, it was Wrest (behind a veil named Leviathan) that has undeniably (albeit quietly) become the foundation of the localized take on the genre.
Existing as a pillar, Leviathan has consistently held up USBM since the 90s. Back when black metal spread through word of mouth rather than blog posts and web zines, Wrest was there aiding the movement. Since the project's inception, Leviathan has featured just about every aesthetic that the genre has become known for, changing with the times and conforming to new ideas presented by other trail blazers. Harsh vocals, cold atmospheres, and dark ambience litter Leviathan's extensive catalogue, never truly meshing into one cohesive package. Yet two decades later, things have finally fallen into place. With the band's most recent outing, Scar Sighted
, Wrest has assembled a compendium of his entire existence, and that of black metal all together.
is the pristine emblem of an entire career. Brimming with the caustic darkness of his later material, the album feels wholly new while still featuring the same haggard nihilism that Wrest is known for. Whereas True Traitor, True Whore
was a rushed mess, Scar Sighted
feels like a lovingly crafted work in which every detail was mulled over. Gone is the chunky, clumsy sound of his 2011 record. And hell, even the shrill, over done treble sound is gone too. Here we have a thick, grim, and bleak atmosphere that feels like a acrid miasma. It's undeniably Leviathan yet somehow refreshingly new.
This is undeniably a drummer's album in may respects. It's well known that Wrest is a percussionist at heart and it's beautifully obvious. "Dawn Vibration," for example, seems built entirely around his skillful work on the set with a a production that allows for each blast to ring perfectly. On its own this is fine enough, but it really does give the album a driving sense of purpose.
While at its heart lies a deeply black, metal record, Scar Sighted
has a wonderfully understated doom soul. Much of the album has a meaty, dense, and pervasive tone that feels darkly effecting amalgam of doom and dark ambient. The title track showcases the two major influences, as Wrest distantly wails over a thick, slow moving hum of reverb and ambience. Yet this truly is just a small taste of what makes up the grander whole. Bouts of heavy metal and death metal manage to shine through as well, making the most diverse piece of music in Leviathan's discography. The true mastery behind it all is how perfectly well it all holds together. Such a hodge podge blend of influences that are so "in the now" should come off as hokey, but Leviathan deftly avoids such overt silliness. A few samplings aside, Scar Sighted
nary misses a step. Throughout, Wrests treats the listener with a shockingly deep, varied, and mature effort.
is Leviathan incarnate. Everything from the art work to the most basal bits of music reeks of Wrest's input. His personal life has been talked about and dissected ad nauseum, and honestly, it isn't really insightful to make baseless comparisons to his music. Regardless of how Scar Sighted
was born, it acts as the crowning achievement of the project's career. Whether this will end up as a swan song or the start of a brand new era, Wrest has made his most impressive creation yet.