Leviathan is the solo black metal project of Jef Whitehead (Wrest). Leviathan has been around for a long time. The earliest demos date back to 1998, but it has been 4 years since the last full album release.
The album opens with some ambient sounds then kicks into a fast-paced second track. The overall sound reminds me a lot of Ulcerate and Converge with the types of dissonance, pacing, and tone. This goes away in the middle with much more dissonance and even some creepy spoken word parts.
The next track fills out the sound and presses forward in momentum. In terms of the flow of the album, the whole first part seems to build to this climactic track. The harmonic motion speeds up and is more traditional. The track is riff heavy which also contributes to the climax.
The album then settles back into a quieter section at the start of the fourth track. This is one of the great things about this album: it has an album-long view of development. There are loud songs, quieter songs, fast songs, slow songs, and they are put together in a way that keeps the listener interested.
Don’t be fooled by the quiet start. This track is the first where the experimental stuff takes the lead. It is highly dissonant with some quarter tone style dissonance and altered spoken word vocals. These sections lead into a very clean guitar duo exit.
The fifth track returns to a traditional black metal sound in terms of tone, pace, and vocals. This track feels a bit static to me, which of course a lot of the best black metal is, but the repetition of a fairly uninteresting chord progression doesn’t transport me anywhere like much great black metal does.
This album’s strong suit is when it is at its most experimental, dissonant ugliness or in the fast-paced intensity. Wrest knows how to create a raw intensity through the fast-paced chaos, and he knows how to create disturbing non-traditional soundscapes and ambient moments.
The in-between moments are perfectly fine and as stated before, the overall ebb and flow of the album is well-designed, so those quieter or slower songs are useful. But the lack of a compelling progression, melody, or atmosphere hampers the effectiveness.
When this is great, it is mind-blowing in its twisted vision. It hits that experimental sweet spot: black metal with brief moments of experimentation to deepen it. When this is not great, it is still very good.
There is a lot to absorb here. The album is full of meticulously placed complicated detail. I have to be in the right frame of mind for it, but I still haven’t grown tired of it yet. Overall, I give it a 9/10. Here’s a sample: