Leviathan – Scar Sighted

Leviathan is the one-man black metal project of the controversial California-based multi-instrumentalist, tattooist Jef Whitehead, a.k.a. ‘Wrest’. Wrest made a name for himself with Leviathan’s early music which channelled the depressive suicidal black metal spirit better than almost any of his contemporaries, and 2003’s ‘The Tenth Sub-Level of Suicide’ remains a classic within that subgenre. But as time moved on Wrest began to incorporate many more influences and styles into Leviathan’s music, culminating in 2008’s ‘Massive Conspiracy Against All Life’, to date (in my view) one of the best albums in the entire black metal genre. I remember listening to the album through my earphones on a long, late walk back from town and this album absolutely engulfed me. It grabs you and pulls you in in a deeply unsettling but gripping way with weird, psychedelic melodies and distorted riffs as well as long, progressive song structures.

2011’s ‘True Traitor, True Whore’ felt like a harking back to the earlier, rawer, angrier Leviathan music, perhaps as a result of Wrest’s personal circumstances at that point in his life. Though by no means a bad album, it felt to me like an album that should have been released before ‘Massive Conspiracy…’, not after it. ‘Scar Sighted’ picks up where 2008’s ‘Massive Conspiracy Against All Life’  left off, and it feels like a natural and appropriate sequel.

This is, once again, a ferocious assault on the senses. It’s  an auditory landscape that is tirelessly bleak and desperate, yet  there’s something quite beautiful about the ugliness on display on this  album. Though Wrest lets up on some of the more psychedelic influences  of ‘Massive Conspiracy…’, the atmosphere is just as all-embracing and  bleak. The vocals that range from gruff death metal grunts and black metal shrieks  all the way to the most inhuman cries and wails of pain and anguish; the  vocals are phenomenal.

This album has riffs in spades: from the down-tuned death metal opening riff of ‘The Smoke of Their Torment’ to the thrashiness of ‘Within Thrall’, Wrest brings creativity and  variety. Weird, psychedelic-infused, distortion-heavy riffs weave their way into songs, dripping menace like acid. Creative drumwork is something Wrest has long been known for and he does not disappoint here with tasteful as well as consistently intense blastbeats, as well as  some moments where he might as well be beating a war-drum to the  destruction of human civilisation.  This is, so far, the best album of 2015 by a wide margin as Wrest leaves the rest of the competition in the dust.