It has been quite a journey for Jef Whitehead, aka Wrest, and for his solo project Leviathan. The longevity of the band is quite astonishing when you consider that its inception dates back to the late ‘90s, releasing myriads of demos through the years before the debut album, The Tenth Sublevel of Suicide, came out, with the aggressive sound of the band and its underlying depressive characteristic would keep manifesting themselves in the next two full-lengths, Tentacles of Whorror and A Silhouette In Splinters. The first three full-lengths of Leviathan were released quite close to each other, but with Massive Conspiracy Against All Life, Wrest took his time. The result was a much more chaotic offering, with the aggression at large once more, but the music seemed to be stepping up a fair bit from the earlier days of Leviathan. True Traitor, True Whore would follow up but would fall slightly short, with the compositions encompassing an uncontrolled frenzy that did not seem to fit so much in the concept of Leviathan. So if you are in the group of fans of Leviathan that wanted something more in the vein of Massive Conspiracy Against All Life, then rejoice, because that is what Scar Sighted is here to offer.
Chaos still prevails in this release but Wrest is always in control over it. Throughout the duration of this album, the balance that Leviathan keep between absolute pandemonium and the acrimonious nature of the album is fine but it never falls out of bounds. What is even more in the case of Scar Sighted is Wrest’s layering of the tracks. The songs have more depth and as a result are more dense, but they never become too much to handle. The guitar work is key in achieving that, with moments such as “The Smoke of Their Torment” revealing that in a sickening degree. The riffs are layered in such fashion that they create an impressive sound, which is used as a base for the more chaotic side of the band to act upon. “Dawn Vibration” is an excellent example of that aspect of the band with the heavy riffs on one side and the frenzied leads taking over when that is necessary. The though process that was put in the placement of each layer of sound manages to achieve a relentless sound for the band, something quite apparent in tracks such as “Wicked Fields of Calm” and “Within Thrall.”
Even though the album itself is not drastically different from the previous releases of Leviathan, it is not like suddenly you will hear Wrest throwing in some shoegaze parts or post-rock additions to his music, but he still makes the most out of the genre. The structures of his songs are better laid out and the different paces of songs add more variety to the release. The mid pace of “A Veil Is Lifted” soon leads to faster parts, with the drums leading the charge adding more drive to the song. The power that those mid tempo parts can add to the music is insane, with “Wicked Fields of Calm” finding the band walking on some more solid ground with the steady pace, while the slower parts of “The Smoke of Their Torments” deliver more impact and power. Then you have the obvious lighting fast, blasting moments spread throughout the album, absolutely perfect in “Dawn Vibration,” and you also get some quite ambivalent parts, for instance the more old school punk-ish oriented groove of “Within Thrall.” But that is not all, because Wrest actually goes as far as doom metal in this album, with the title track featuring a quite slow and torturing pace, while “All Tongues Toward” gives a ritualistic vibe to the song.
That is also the other obvious aspect of Leviathan’s sound, the craftsmanship of ambiance. That is something that few black metal bands can achieve in the degree that Leviathan can. The atmosphere of the album is dark, and I do not mean gimmicky dark. There is something intense in the case of Scar Sighted. Even the intro of the album with the drones settling in gets very dark and oppressive as it progresses, especially with the addition of bells near the end. Then you have the clean guitars and the spoken vocals in the ending of “The Smoke of Their Torment” making things quite uncomfortable. The slithering ambiance of “Gardens of Coprolite” is a perfect example of how dusky Scar Sighted can get, as it unfolds for the first minute and a half of the track. Even chants are included in “Within Thrall” and “Aphonos” to further enhance that aspect of the act.
Scar Sighted is evenly distributed between the different modes that Leviathan explores, from the chaotic and destructive moments, to the ambient parts and to their majestic explosions. The last three songs of the album reveal how big a sound this band can achieve. By implementing a slower pace the title track unfolds for the first seven minutes with its towering and ominous presence. It is almost a merge of dark ambient and doom metal before Wrest annihilates what he has been building and collapses the song with a bitter black metal assault. “All Tongues Toward” retains the grand character even though the song itself is quite aggressive and fast paced, but the addition of the underlying melodies still give that more majestic aspect. While the finale of the album with “Aphonos” is just on a whole other level of extremity, with Wrest taking a more minimalistic approach and creating huge sonic walls that encompass the listener while the unearthly screams rage on.
The manner in which the dissonant side of Leviathan is contrasted with some more melodic elements in Scar Sighted further reveals the approach that Wrest is undertaking. The more varied vocal lines that he is delivering, ranging from the standard black metal screams to clean chants and almost guttural death metal vocals, reveal how he is trying to further push the sonic boundaries of Leviathan. What you should keep from all this is that Scar Sighted seems like an album of rejuvenation of Leviathan, especially coming after their previous album, True Traitor, True Whore, and it certainly manages to immerse you into the dark sound of the band.
8.2 / 10
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