Friday, May 23, 2008

Leviathan - Massive Conspiracy Against All Life

Californian Black Metal band Leviathan's music has been called 'depressive Black Metal', but that is something of a misnomer. Far from a emotional monochrome, Leviathan's music is a veritable kaleidoscope of - admittedly, mostly dysphoric - emotions. On Leviathan's latest album, 'Massive Conspiracy Against All Life', the affect shifts, modulates, transforms continually: agression, lust, elation, triumph, fury, anxiety, resignation, depression and anger. Emotionally, Leviathan's music is richer than ever.

The integrating power of Leviathan's musicianship ensures that the sum of these disparate emotions does not become a jumble of moods and sounds. Far from a confusion effacing all affect and a scramble effacing all sounds, the dissimilar element are aggregated into an demonic whole. Leviathan accomplishes this by means of a certain simplicity: heavily-layered, haze-filled noise, sputtering blast beats, half-smothered melodies and cryptic sound effects are opened onto something luxuriously evil by means of the austerity of riffs.

I must admit I was a little disappointed with the album at the first two, three listens.

I had hoped, and perhaps expected a little, that Wrest (the mastermind behind Leviathan) would continue further in the mind-expanding direction he had taken as 'Lurker Of Chalice', and dare to traverse many genres in a single bound. In my mind's ear, I anticipated Wrest evolving into a Black Metal reincarnation of early The Third Eye Foundation (the early, sinister one, not the later weepy PC one!): I could almost hear a Jazz-orbiting Black Metal; a Black Metal that was more ink-noir than stereotypically grim; a dusty, scratched, junk-shop Black Metal; a Black Metal that is not nostalgic for an archaic consciousness but that reuses the dystopian fears of successive generations (to paraphrase and invert Walter Benjamin).

Probably, I had been anticipating this new album with a little too much impatience. My imagination had ran away with me. I had not prepared for the austerity of riffs. At first, the album seemed taciturn.

But listening to the album repeatedly, made an intimate understanding between the music and myself grow, made my appreciation of the subtleties of this album flower. Because it is a subtle album.

Not only are the disparate elements (riffs, rhythms, electronic sound effects, noise) sculptured in a masterful, subtle way; not only are these elements arranged subtly; but most of all, subtle is the way the pendulum of the music swings from focused and mature austerity to wailing, teeth-gnashing and lunatic miasma. In other words: most subtle is the way subtlety ebbs away and floods back in again.

'Massive Conspiracy Against All Life' is an album of cold and moonsick joy - highly recommended.

Post scriptum

Here is a very interesting post by mr. Reynolds which touches on some of the issues addressed in this post and references the same Deleuze/Guattari - passage I shoplifted for this review.

Unexpected 'web of significance': 'Massive Conspiracy Against All Life' was recorded and mixed by Dan Voss and mastered by Drew Webster ('Drucifer'), both of whom have been associated with two seminal albums by Portland Free Noise band Yellow Swans: 'Psychic Secession' and 'At All Ends'.


dp said...

Thanks for the review (and all your reviews which I regularly find inspiring).

It is a difficult album that rewards repeated listens. Cold, watery, swirling unpredictably. God living out the afterlife reincarnated as some mad lobster careening across the floors of the deep.

Dominic said...

I've heard it through about once. Definitely don't feel I've listened properly to it yet.

Something Wrest and Malefic have in common is that both develop without moving forwards, turning about in the same gyre, finding new accents in what was already there. Radical novelty would distract from this process.