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There are some bands who make compilation albums with songs easily found on the standard editions of their common full-lengths, and there are some bands who compile rare songs from demos or the like. 'Howl Mockery at the Cross' is a solid example of the latter. The release contains a collection of Leviathan songs recovered from damaged demo tapes. Consequentially, the recording quality varies from song to song. Some of Wrest's best work can be found here.
"Summoning Lupine," my favorite track on the CD, starts with 45 seconds of ambient tone mixed with war trumpets and continues on as the drums and bass join in. Wrest issues forth a creepy vocal passage before letting the raw black metal riffs start. Though the song goes on for almost nine minutes, Wrest never repeats a riff and the song doesn't get boring.
The three songs that follow are also nice selections. "Lycanthropus Rex" has a manic intro and outro riff that fits the image of the song's namesake. "The Axis and Maw of the Inferno, Mine" is slightly slower and darker while maintaining a good degree of aggression. "Where Annihilation Dwells" has drums that play at a near constant speed, but along with the guitar riffs, it sounds fine.
The next few are much less great. "Liar of Nazareth" has riffs that remind me too much of a Gorgoroth song called "Profetens Apenbaring." The so called "melodic" main riff of "Just Under the Tainted Grace" is annoying to hear; fortunately, it doesn't stay on that riff the whole song. The only song I find absolutely skip-able is "S.W.O.L." It sounds like one of Xasthur's crappier songs. Come on, Wrest. You could have picked a better song than that.
I somehow find the later part of "Never For Peace" danceable. It begins with fast riffs and ends with a groove metal type riff. It may be the only reason to keep listening to this CD. "Those Slimy Things" is boring (but not as boring as "S.W.O.L."), and the Death In June cover, though a little better, doesn't have much in terms of redeeming qualities.
If you don't mind the mediocre songs, the rest of the CD can be really rewarding. It's not totally essential, but this CD rounds off a Leviathan collection quite nicely.
Here we have a nice collection of demo era Leviathan. From what I can tell, from listening through a bunch of the demos which contain some of these songs, the songs chosen here are of a higher and better quality than their originals. This isn't quite essential for your average Leviathan fan, for a super fanboy like myself I'd defiantly label this as "can't miss."
Howl Mockery At The Cross, besides having a cool title, has some odd sounding songs, some really great songs, some pointless, and a cover. The odd sounding, for the most part can be found in the beginning of the collection. The "puddle" sounding guitars and fake sounding, yet cool, battle trumpets that begin "Summoning Lupine" which lead way to a crumbling-like break and some super odd vocals in which Wrest sounds like a real creep. Keep in mind, this is hardly a bad thing, it's just odd, but cool. This is actually one of the better songs to be found in this collection, it has a lot of little things in it that work in your typical Leviathan fashion. The first three tracks are very good, a nice start.
For the most part we're actually treated with some really good stuff here, with the exception of "Where Annihilation Dwells" sub-par for Leviathan's standards and "S.W.O.L. (2001)" (boring, finds its way onto too many releases of his, how i loathe it!). Some tracks aren't too impressive, but they have some cool parts that make them worth the listen ( "Never For Peace" is a good example of this, the breakdown section at 3:14, along with that awesome Celtic Frost 'Ugh!").
The Death In June cover is there, I mean it's not bad, but I find myself skipping it most of the time. Overall Howl Mockery... contains mostly B grade songs, which are good, but not face melting, with the exception of "Just Under Tainted Grace." "Just Under Tainted Grace" has to be one of my favorite Leviathan songs (this version in particular). It contains a super catchy and melodic riff that makes you forget about the rest of the release. Great song, I'd hold onto my cd just for that song alone.
Similar to Demos 2000, and a handful of Wrest's demo material, we see a stronger tendency to a more traditional, Celtic Frost, style of black metal. It's not just the "ughs" but riff work seems to take priority over any type of ambiance or atmosphere.
If you find this laying around, and in your price range, by all means get it. If you've only mildly enjoyed other works by Leviathan you'll find some good stuff here, but might not full grasp or care about it. Overall it carries a very ambivalent feeling.
SOME of the material on this album is recycled from other demo releases… I’m fairly certain that MOST of the material is genuinely previously un-released. Out of the 12 Leviathan releases I have only the tracks “Liar of Nazareth” and “SWOL” appear on previous albums and SWOL is the only track to appear again on a subsequent release… this itself is a major problem, but more on that later.
I acquired this album late in my collection of Leviathan albums and after my extreme disappointment with another compilation album also released in 2005: “A Silhouette In Splinters,” I was prepared for the worst. Thankfully this compilation at least had a strong opening. The third song on the album, “The Axis and Maw of Inferno, Mine” almost immediately became my favorite song in the whole library.
The track opens with a dizzying downward glissando which dissolves into 16 seconds of laid-back acoustic drumming during which Wrest’s undistorted voice emerges to announce “This is a symbol… a symbol of terror…” Then the glissando repeats and the polyrhythmic drumming starts in earnest with that characteristically Leviathan dry-as-shit snare hit triplet keeping the driving beat. Typical warbling tremolo guitar riffs start in, keeping pace with the mid-tempo triplet on the snare… and then, and this is just plain genius… the riffs drop into down-tune mode, chugging out a four-beat allargando that literally seems to crush the song with ten tons of steel, then transitioning seamlessly back to the original temp before falling into a repetition of the allargando. The strength of that 3rd song on this compilation is almost reason enough to buy the album in itself.
Unfortunately this compilation has major major problems. Liar of Nazareth and SWOL are not good songs by any stretch. Liar has a gallivanting guitar melody, which while complex, is nauseatingly repetitious..., literally nauseating. Liar also features un-compelling drum work which would probably sound passable if I just didn’t know it was by Leviathan. SWOL by contrast is a slow, almost neo-classical bit of atmosphere which ironically suffers from much of the same nauseating qualities of Liar. I think the worst part about SWOL is that if you ever put together a playlist of the entire Leviathan library for a long road trip or whatever, then this fucking song is gonna rear its ugly head as much as three times: if you didn’t want to rip your ears off the side of your head the first time you heard it, the second and third times just might do the trick. For the most part I think USBM is head and shoulders above its Scandinavian contemporaries, but songs like SWOL that’ll have you scrambling for the corniest of European kult kitsch just to wash the awful taste out of your brain’s aural memory… it’s a shameful and embarrassing shit-stain that can make you doubt the quality of EVERY other Leviathan song. Ultimately, I had to rip the tracks from this CD onto my computer, delete SWOL, and recompile the tracks onto a blank. If I had this shit on vinyl, or even worse, a cassette… I would be so goddamn pissed off at the inconvenience of having to skip this song that I’d probably give up on the album, if not the artist as well. On a side note, the last track, “Nothing Changes” sucks just about as hard as any black metal cover of a non-black metal song can… and maybe a little more. It might be a crowd pleaser to the right sort of live audience but it offers nothing what-so-ever to the dude sitting at home with his headphones on.
Based on the strength of the majority of the tracks in this compilation, I would strongly recommend it to any fan of Leviathan. At the same time, the album has MAJOR flaws: not only is some material recycled from previous releases, but the recycled songs are so fucking TERRIBLE that if I could, I would burry every known copy of the album in an unmarked hole in the Gobi Desert if for no other reason than it would help preserve my unsullied memory of Leviathan as a band that could do no wrong. I still haven’t heard the latest album, and honestly, I’m afraid to give it a listen. The problems with this album seem to be the tip of the iceberg… first the underwhelming “A Silhouette In Splinters,” then “The Blind Wound” (which was just a frigging re-release of the Leviathan half of the split with Sapthuran) to the release of the crap-tastic “The Speed of Darkness.” Of course, the forth track on “The Speed of Darkness” is SWOL again… as if just to piss me off. WTF is going on with Wrest? Guy is doing too many drugs… or not enough!
SWOL is by far the weakest song in the entire library and the fact that it appears on multiple albums, including this one, will drive you absolutely ape-shit if you ever dared to care about this project. Rumors abound concerning problems with label Moribund… I hope and pray all these compilations are, as the rumors contend, forced productions mandated by the label.
Leviathan – Howl mockery at the cross (2005)
Leviathan is a new band to my ears and takes my mind with the cover artwork to some mid-east countries but after a short studying finds it’s home to USA. Howl mockery at the cross is not the new material from Leviathan but a revival of old demos for collectors and to us who haven’t heard anything of the band before.
I was a little sceptic about this CD because today’s ”TRUE UG BLACK METAL” style bands just seems to be all ugly appearances that is used to cover the melancholic and beautifull songs. After this the music is changed into an irrelevant part of the band, while the members concentrate on achieving some sort of KVLT-status’. But Leviathan is not from this category which I find out from the beginning of Howl mockery at the cross and the opening song buries my prejudices deep down – somewhere – and now only praises can be heard.
The music is pretty much Underground black metal but the CD has a lot more to offer than any of the bands that I have heard in a couple of years. Especially some of the songs, like the second song “Lycantrhopus rex” have some really genious spine shivering a bit untuned sounding lead guitars that invoke insanely twisted emotions that I’ve never come across in extreme metal before. Also the bass lines have earned a special mention since all kinds of interesting bass runs are included and not just the basic guitar followings. Sometimes the bass even takes the role of the lead guitar and the guitars just create atmosphere on the background. The vocals are really much distorted but in a good way and fuck they fit in the music well!
The overall atmosphere on the album is sometimes psychotic and sometimes just plain evil. The sounds differ quite a lot between the demos and I think some of them are really early recordings because some songs don’t meet the high standars of the majority of the songs like for example the two first songs are fucking brilliant. Fuck sake I can’t come up with anything negative to say about this album despite the fact that a couple of not that interesting songs are included.
I took a quick listen to the full length albums of Leviathan and from those listens this demo re-release sounds to my ears a lot better than the full lenghts so I recommend – No I urge you – to aqcuire this CD if you like “Real fucking darkness” type of music. This CD leaves high expectations for the 2006 coming next full length and this time I make an exception and quote the covering letter that came with the CD that I can fully agree with.
This is a CD that people can take a listen to and see how this type of black metal should be done. Compared to the Finnish sargeist CD that I got at the same time with this one I am ashamed to say that this time the US beat us ridicously easily.
4½/5 Scythe 05.01.2005
” Demo's for those seeking the past of Black Metal's Future !!!” (Leviathan – Howl mockery at the cross covering letter)
Translated from a Finnish review. Original review published at www.stalkermusic.com by me.