Leviathan "Massive Conspiracy Against All Life" CDPosted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 @ 7:10am » permalink
There has been much drama and speculation surrounding the release of "Massive Conspiracy Against All Life", the third proper full-length from San Francisco's infamous one-man black metal outfit Leviathan, but I have little interest in such nonsense, so dig around elsewhere if you'd care to read about such topics. The long-awaited album was finally released last week by Moribund Records, and that's all that really matters: The music. Granted, I was very late to become a Leviathan fan, and in fact simply did not care for much of what I had heard from the project prior to a few years ago. I'm not sure if it was the production values or the actual material itself, but while I admittedly never really cared for the "Tentacles of Whorror" album (and honestly haven't really revisited it since its release, though I should), I did eventually discover an appreciation for Leviathan's full-length debut, "The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide", and some of Wrest's split material.
Similarly, the first few minutes of "Massive Conspiracy Against All Life" found me uncertain, and I think it was just that my ears needed to adjust to the peculiarities of the tones and the mix, because as I settled into the second and third tracks I became more and more intrigued by the entire affair: The overall quality and diversity of the riffing, the chaotically arranged yet relatively precisely delivered drumming, the occasional presence of numerous forms of windy, howling dark ambient tones (to varying degrees of prominence), etc. With seven tracks in just over an hour's time it doesn't take a math wiz to determine that these are relatively long-winded compositions, but even with the majority of the tracks running from eight to 13 minutes, there's so much layering and directional twisting and turning going on that there's little room for boredom. Take for example the unexpected foray into eerie dark ambient hums, subtly melodic volume swells, faint bass runs, and indecipherable vocals towards the end of "Made as the Stale Wine of Wrath". But such frequent shifts and variations are actually employed incredibly efficiently within the grand scheme of the complete compositions/the album as a whole, with an obviously significant level of thought behind the way the transitions rise, fall, and progress throughout.
If you've heard any of Leviathan's past efforts at all you'll know that plenty of the staples of the black metal genre are to play a significant role, and Wrest's take on said elements are still prominent on this recording: Speed, discordant tremolo picking, fucked up chord phrasings and sliding/bending riffs, muddled vocal sneers fighting forth from the core of the mix… But herein even the more "straightforward" and relentlessly aggressive pieces, such as the hammering "Receive the World", are accented with surprises – such as the droning lead melodies tucked away in the distance before the track sinks into a spacious clean riff enveloped by more strangely melodic ambient textures, resonant percussive thuds, and heavily obscured vocal whispers as it draws to a close. You won't find me gushing empty praise for Leviathan's work, but I have to confess that I'm a bit of a convert here, as I never "got it" years ago, but now that I do… it's plain to see that the musicianship and vision at work here really do put to shame so many of the other "renown" one-man "USBM" acts out there – to the point where at least a few of them should feel rather embarrassed, really. This is quite a powerful album, and I think it'll take a few listens to truly begin digesting it as a whole.