There are few bands that cause me as much discomfort, uneasiness, and paranoia as Leviathan does. What’s crazy about it is, I fucking love it. With their entire discography loaded in the queue, I sink deep into the night with over hour-long albums (minus True Traitor, True Whore) of torturous screams, ambient atmospheres, raw black-metal riffage, and depressive lyrical content. Leviathan albums are like cult indie films that you are completely floored by even if they are a chore to get through. You promise you’ll never watch that movie again, but before you know it, you’re finishing it for the third time in one night. And Wrest’s new outing is no different. After his legal issues with Moribund Records (and the near collapse of the band) during the Massive Conspiracy Against All Life release, and the controversial and unsettling content of True Traitor, True Whore (based around the sexual assault charges against Wrest), this one-man band from California is back with another nasty dose of depressing nightmares that dabble in the rawness and attitude of Tentacles of Whorror and the experimental aura of Massive Conspiracy Against All Life. After enough listens to make an itchy finger even itchier, I have finally pulled myself from this uniquely crafted abyss just long enough to write this damn review. Be warned, it’s kinda depressing.
Interestingly titled “-“ opens Scar Sighted with a calming Alcest/Ulver-like atmosphere that, while soothing, promises of something horrible to come. Follow-up track “The Smoke of Their Torment” jackknives this ambient soundscape with a blackened panzer, crushing and splitting everything in its path. But, being unable to stay on one topic too long, the song shifts gears and slows briefly in order to drop unsettling, nails-on-a-chalkboard fret work in its midsection. Add some disturbing sampling to the mix and you’ve got yourself the kind of trippy, mind-fucking formula that makes Leviathan one of the best USBM metal bands out there.
The nightmare continues with tightly pinched harmonics and a headbangable death riff in “Dawn Vibration,” before transitioning to a bass-heavy interlude full of agonized spitting. As with most of Leviathan’s material, Wrest lets loose with his mix of shrieks, screams, and banshee-isms that can be either torturous or heart-wrenching. For that warm-and-fuzzy unsettling feeling, look no further than the maelstrom that is “Within Thrall” and its sheets of screaming or the ten-minute, heartstring-tugging “Scar Sighted.” The title track is the quintessential mix of melody and pain that reminds me of the dearly missed Xasthur. Though long, its atmosphere and beautiful melodies wrap nicely around the nearly constant screeches of sadness and hopelessness.
Between the jerking riff changes and mind-fuckery, Wrest can also show restraint with numbers like “Wicked Fields of Calm,” which settles into a tunnel-shrieking melodic BM groove for its six-minute length. However, it is also the least memorable track on the album. Fans of the band know that Wrest is at his best when he mixes it up with his variety of low croaks and high-pitched screeching, his unsettling transitions between BM frenzies and plodding melodics, and his ability to keep you as uncomfortable as someone sharing a bedroom wall with a medieval torture chamber.
As with the last couple releases, Wrest’s drumming is a real treat. From the clever rappings in the opening of “Gardens of Coprolite” to the death march of “All Tongues Toward,” Wrest’s subtleties weigh in heavily and with great effectiveness. The production here is much muckier than the previous True Traitor, True Whore and gives the record the charm of the back-catalog. The instrumentation and riffs are exactly what you would expect from Leviathan and tracks like “The Smoke of Their Torment” and “Dawn Vibration” even remind me of ditties from the show-stopping sophomore release, Tentacles of Whorror.
Scar Sighted shows Wrest back in form following the lackluster True Traitor, True Whore. This new release perfectly melds the old styles of The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide and Tentacles of Whorror with the more modern ambience of Massive Conspiracy Against All Life. While not as strong as his classic releases, Wrest’s new outing holds its own in the Leviathan discog. This is by no means a casual listen and with over an hour of depressive content, it can be utterly exhausting. But that’s how I like my Leviathan and I wouldn’t want it any other way.