Second to Sun – Leviathan Review

The moment you’ve all I’ve been waiting for: Second to Sun’s newest release, Leviathan. It’s been nothing but prolific releases lately in the 2020 Realm of Grier. There’s Vardan, Vous Autres, and—now—StS. As I said in last year’s Legacy review, it’s always Christmas with the annual Second to Sun release. But unlike a yearly Vous Autres drop, Second to Sun doesn’t send me spiraling down a black hole of despair. The Walk was the last one of their releases to come close to putting me over the edge. Since then, the band has ditched some of the mindfuckery to focus on heft and melody. Twenty-nineteen found Legacy to be the band’s heaviest creation. But, with a name like Leviathan, one can only expect something mammoth in this year’s release.

It doesn’t matter in what order you stack the StS catalog; everything they put out is good.1 And as fans should expect, this year’s record has a vocal and instrumental version. I’ve dedicated many characters to this odd decision from a black/death outfit, but, once again, it is the right thing to do. A lot of instrumentation and songwriting hides behind a vocalist. Like The Ocean, Second to Sun can bring that to the forefront. When you discover that the band recorded the instrumental version first, with the vocals added later, that’s even more impressive. This focus on writing without a voice is a difficult thing to do. But that doesn’t mean Gleb Sysoev is some putz. Far from it. Interestingly, even though chorus-like sections appear in Leviathan, they still exist on the instrumental version. These eyes-to-the-sky moments of chorus-like passion aren’t new to the band. Nor, in other cases, are the in-your-face bludgeoning by a single, repeated word. A word that repeatedly slams, hard and sharp at the base of the neck.

The more heart-wrenching choruses come in the form of the back-to-back openers, “Eerie” and “Marsch der Wölfe.” The former is one of the lengthier ones of the album, which means you’re gonna get your money’s worth. It’s nine minutes of unsettling guitar tappings and heavy, vicious black/death combinations. Not to mention the vocals, which sound like a man being tortured to death. The title of “Marsch der Wölfe” implies what it is: a march. With one of the more addictive licks of the album, the surprise is the melodic passages that spring up and fade away amidst the villainous death march. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the classic, one-word cannonade described earlier. “Shaitan” and the title track are such songs on Leviathan. Like “Devil,” from Legacy, these songs unleash the wisdom of evil gods into your brainwaves. But a one-dimensional approach for a song clocking in at eight-plus minutes is no good. So, the synthy atmospheres of “Leviathan” both drive and temper its chaoticness.

Like Legacy, there’re also moments of sheer devastation. “I Psychoanalyze My Ghosts” has a headbangable, Carpathian Forest-like black ‘n’ roll swagger, while the midsection of “Shaitan” shit-an’s out one of the most neck-breaking riffs from the band. There’re also those moments of momentous terror. As fans would expect, these occur via effects and keyboard atmospheres. But these are not like those of The Walk. In this case, they break up the album in a herky-jerky way. On “Black Death, Spirits and Werewolves,” they do little for the album. The other thing that slips by me in an unfortunate way is the closer. Though timed well for the season,2 it’s not what I looked forward to after the weak, intro-like character of “Black Death, Spirits and Werewolves.”

The result: this is a quarter of a mark below Legacy. But because we rate by the halves here at AMG,3 Leviathan will settle for a 3.5/5.0. I know that sounds like a letdown. It’s not. It’s unbelievable that this band continually scores 4.0s on the Grier scale. That’s a feat that, well, no other band has done. Ever. The main issue here is putting the two instrumental, “noise” pieces on the back-half of the album. I know they should disrupt the flow, but having two different approaches in alternating tracks doesn’t work when the follow-up track to the second one is the so-so “November.” That said, the production is a touch more dynamic than its predecessor, and the better songs on the disc make up for the others. It’s funny to think that even though Leviathan is a half of a point lower than Legacy, it’ll still make my 2020 Top Ten. Go figure.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Self-Released
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: September 29th, 2020

Show 3 footnotes

  1. OK, minus that odd, djenty Based on a True Story.
  2. It’s called “November.”
  3. No, this is not an invitation for the “Why don’t you score in tens?” or “What’s wrong with scoring by the ten-thousandths place?” Shut. The. Fuck. Up.
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