Leviathan – Massive Conspiracy Against All Life

Leviathan – Massive Conspiracy Against All Life (Moribund Records)

Alright. Here’s how things are: I don’t know if you’re calling it depressive black metal or the new wave of American underground black metal or what but this one caught us completely unawares and it’s wrecking our brains on every listen. Why? But because Leviathan mastermind Wrest sat down and wrote not jut another record, he’s not putting out just another Leviathan release. This one first and foremost is shutting up anyone that considered him just some American has-been with nothing left to offer. Better pay attention because this is how it is.

After his more ambient works – which I enjoyed moderately – I was up for a more violent Leviathan, something like “Verrater” let’s say, or the nervous “The Blind Wound” (or the extremely impressive side of his for the Sapthuran split). So, that’s what the dude did. Only this time he thought he’d go the extra mile and beat everyone silly while he’s at it. Some people up in the grim frozen North should probably pay attention because they might have been beaten in their own game. I’m not saying Wrest is without his influences; obviously the Nordic black metal originals have both been responsible for the existence and the further shaping of the American variation of the form. But here the catch is that while everybody’s busy hyping the new ‘avant-garde’ black metal scene and Deathspell Omega and whatever else, Wrest is substantiating his work with a purer quality. The result is this amazing record. It’s not often the stereos at home and in my car are so completely hijacked by a black metal record but the material therein is truly flabbergasting, epic and nightmarishly potent. “Massive Conspiracy Against All Life” is not the typical depressive black metal of Leviathan. It’s more an offering to the genre on the whole.

Starting with the first shock of “Vesture Dipped in the Blood of Morning”. Guys, check out the sound job here. Absolutely nothing like Wrest’s earlier efforts. Sharp black metal with Arkhon Infaustus riffs and a mean raison d’etre to boot. The track railways forward with tenebrous aggression, in pursuit of that which only Wrest can know. For once the captivating drum work adds to the composition of the material rather than just providing backbone. Where most of the work’s been done though, is in the guitar and vocal work. Listen to what goes down in and about the 3:35 mark of the song. The guy is fearless. And then he returns back to the fuck-you-all railway track riffing and the deal my friends, is sealed. “Merging With Sword, Onto Them” follows and is one of the best black metal tracks I’ve heard in a while, easily. It starts out with a foreboding ambient rhythm, while the guitars build a wall of frequency in the background. And suddenly, nothing could have prepared you for this mother of a riff that crashes in and sends everything spiraling out of control. This is the most awesome aspect of the record: there are so many things that just sneak up on you that it constantly keeps you on your toes. Wrest isn’t playing softball here. This isn’t the kind of album you can put on in the background while you go do something else. It’s disruptive. What with amazing riffs that most anyone in the scene would be envious like those in “Made as the Stale Wine of Wrath”. God-damn it, this is the quality that all black metal should strive for. Vision, passion, aggression. Same track, at 5:09 we’re headbanging with all we’ve got, ’cause this is otherworldly, it’s coming from somewhere else entirely, and with it comes darkness. Even the noise/ambient outro is distinctively Leviathan.

And we return: “Receive the World”. How much faster can this get while retaining quality? Wrest is proving how much he’s into his craft, not for empty oneupmanship, but because – and it really shows – he is passionate about this. This performance is as flawless as it is devastating. Emotional and atmospheric. Wrest has convinced me of his greatness. Furthermore it’s fortunate that for this batch of compositions he’s moved away from the classic fuzzed out and sometimes bland sound, opening a new chapter for the band. A chapter that finds Leviathan with renewed intentions as far as sound production goes, where everything is both clear and raw. The sound lets the injections of gray melody played by synthesizers or guitars carry through intact. And while I’m busting your balls about the greatness therein, “Vulgar Asceticism” has arrived and sent me through frantic fits of headbanging again. I get the feeling this cat was holding back on this material for years waiting for the right time. Or maybe he just snapped one night and decided to aurally destroy us all. The pleasures of this track are not to be put to words, you really have to listen for yourselves.

There’s a rumor going about that this is the last Leviathan recording and that Wrest will carry on with Lurker of Chalice. He’s stated that he has 4(!) albums ready for the latter project. In any case, time will tell. Deathspell Omega fans will find a lot of interest here, some even say the album is distinctively Deathspell. Even if this is so (although I can’t say I hear it, personally) i know that the man is playing by his own rules. He’s infused, intelligently and maturely, his past experiences from every one of his works into this, his masterpiece. While you’re wondering why I’ve gone rabid over this stuff, give a listen to the left turn of  “Noisome Ash Crown” and then come talk about ambient black metal and whatever else. This is the album of the year, hands down, barring any surprises (which I don’t foresee, really).

~ by Θ. on 2009/01/16.

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