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If there's anything that impresses me most about Leviathan, it's that Wrest has managed to purposefully reinvent his one-man project with each and every full-length. Following an abundant string of demos, Leviathan's first substantive offering, The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide, was about as close as Leviathan's even come to justly warranting the DSBM label that's often (somewhat inaccurately) tossed its way. Compared to the respectively experimental and primal shifts manifested in Massive Conspiracy Against All Life and True Traitor, True Whore, Leviathan's second full-length Tentacles of Whorror is not such a leap from the style of its predecessor. Rather, it's best seen as a consolidation of many of the ideas Wrest was working with on Tenth Sub Level. By my ears it doesn't quite match the personal revelation that was his debut, but the crippling atmosphere and ambitious scope only serve to reinforce my impression of Leviathan as one of the most consistent projects operating within black metal.
If there is anything that most distinguishes Tentacles of Whorror from its otherworldly predecessor, it lies in the prevailing emotional intention behind the music. With The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide, all of the negative outbursts and emotional decay felt turned inward; there was no one but Wrest in that solipsistic hell, and whatever was being felt had little if nothing to do with outside affairs. With Tentacles of Whorror, it certainly doesn't sound like he's become anywhere close to comfortable with himself, but the pain has turned outward. As it often does in real life, the self-eating depression has manifested itself as outward-focused anger and resentment. The muted chug on "What Fresh Hell" and the out-of-nowhere speed metal riff a ways into "Heir to the Noose of Ghoul" convey a similar degree of negativity, but there's no way either of those riffs could be written with such energy if Wrest wasn't empowered at least in part but a contempt for his surroundings. Depression is best captured in music with plodding somnolence. Anger is reflected by the opposite; speed, noise and energy. Tentacles of Whorror manages to balance itself between the two. This is some of the angriest Leviathan has ever sounded, second only to the in-your-face rage of True Traitor, True Whore most of a decade later.
As always, the most instantly chilling material with Leviathan are his ambient interludes. Where the despondent atmosphere of the black metal itself can take a few listens to get familiar with, there is something immediately bed-wetting about a human voice becoming pitch-shifted to the point of sounding non-human. There are many bands within Leviathan's stylistic family that use interludes like that as an unnecessary filler, and the obvious attention to detail that went into the ambient material serves to further distinguish Wrest from most of his half-baked peers. Then again, after having listened to most of Leviathan's full-length output now, I was expecting as much from Wrest. Less impressive (and more surprising) on Tentacles of Whorror are actually the compositions themselves. "Heir to the Noose of Ghoul" (as I mentioned earlier) is a brilliantly effective speed metal-laced tune. "Vexed and Vomit Hexed" and "Tentacles of Whorror (Revel the Tyrant)" are both great longer pieces. "Blood Red and True" is another fantastic dark ambient track. But even after many listens, many of these tracks don't jump out at me. The atmosphere is as potentially chilling as Tenth Sub Level, but fewer of the riffs and individual ideas leap out at me the way I hoped and expected from Leviathan. Then again, revisiting the album in the future might change this opinion. Considering the major appreciation for Wrest's work I've recently kindled, I hope for my sake that it does.
It's almost surprising to think I've listened to Tentacles of Whorror now almost as much as The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide. The debut managed to hit me with a rapturous intensity within the first listens. Tentacles of Whorror is cut from a very similar cloth as the debut, but hasn't really instilled the same awe in me. Very possibly, it's due to the sense of this album as an emotional transition. The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide sought to dunk you underwater and hold you there until you droned in its depression. Tentacles of Whorror hops between the two, and while it was arguably a necessary evolution to facilitate even greater things to come, it lacks the coherence I've noticed and enjoyed on other Leviathan records. Be that as it may, the material here is still rock solid. It doesn't matter whether Wrest is conjuring anger or despair-- he makes you feel whatever he's feeling.
Wrest presents us with a gothic and ambient work of metal art. The vocals are eerily processed, with guitar dissonance every chance there is. Like many album covers of the genre, it is a simple black-and-white portrait (here depicting monster-on-monster mayhem). Also of the genre's repertoire is the fact of Leviathan being a one-man-band (Burzum, Judas Iscariot, etc.). That said, Wrest does a very good job in astounding us that this is actually true.
The drums are programmed (again, not uncommon), but give us blast beats that could give Hellhammer a run for his money. Black metal purists may criticize for it not sounding "raw enough" - though I think that it's disturbing ambience and unholy vocals could overpower that aspect. "Tentacles of Whorror" also has it's share of lengthy tracks (as per usual for black metal) and keeps them going with foreboding choirs of hell and background satanic mischief.
Scary, hypnotic, unsettling (perhaps a good choice if you want scare the pants off of trick-or-treaters).
My choice cuts:
"What Fresh Hell"
"Heir to the Noose of Ghoul"
"Bouquet of Blood for Skull"
"Mouth Orifice Bizarre"
Leviathan is an American Suicidal Black Metal band. Like the better known Xasthur, Leviathan’s focus is atmosphere. However, the way the two largest bands in the genre go about their depressive task varies greatly. Xasthur uses a wall of sound, low fi production and synths to create what is almost ambient music created with metal instruments. Leviathan, on the other hand, doesn’t forgo traditional riffs on their quest for darkness. Instead, they meld atmospheric sections, ambiance, and crushing metal riffs into their music.
With Leviathan’s first official album (The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide) they focused more on the atmospheric portion of their sound. The entire album flowed together as one track, and its effect was incredible. This time around, the focus is more on the riffs.
The album starts with the violent song, What Fresh Hell. This track is filled with pummeling mid paced black metal. The following track ups the ante and even includes a breakdown. With track three, the album becomes more ambient and all around darker. Now that Wrest knows he has you, there isn’t as much need for ferocious heaviness to pin you down under its weight. The swirling darkness is just as effective at the task. For the remainder of the album is continues in a similar fashion. It frequently has a few heavier sections offset by ambiance or more atmospheric riffs. It is this contrast that prevents the album from growing stale over its incredibly lengthy running time.
The music always maintains a creepy and ferocious atmosphere, even during the heavier parts. The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide felt as if darkness was surrounding you. You didn’t know what was going to happen and there was no escape. Here, the darkness is no longer content to sit around quite as much. This album feels as if you entered a previously unexplored network of caves. A gigantic best suddenly attacks you and violently chases you, driving you deeper into the caverns. By the time the first third of the album is over, you are forever lost in its caverns. You stagger around in the suffocating darkness, desperately trying to hide from the ferocious monster. Every few minutes it finds you again and lunges out at you, always allowing you to escape at the last instant. As it continues to toy with you all chance of ever leaving the caverns alive disappears. You will never see the light of day again. By the end of the album, you have died and the knowledge of your death will never leave the cave. No one will ever know where you died, and no one will ever care.
The instruments on this album are all played by Wrest, and are all perfectly done. While none are particularly technical, they all fulfill their purpose with flying colors. The guitars tremolo pick rarely, instead relying on other less common techniques for the majority of the album. They can go between a heavy and ferocious breakdown to an atmospheric wall of sound in seconds. The bass generally backs the guitars, but it has several moments to shine. One of these is A Necessary Mutilation, which occurs around the midway point of the album. The track consists entirely of bass and ambiance; it is slow, minimalist and haunting. Another Bass driven standout is Mouth Orafice Bizzare where the bass tone seems to consist almost entirely of lows and distortion. It seems to embody the very darkness that surrounds the entire album and is executed perfectly. The drums are also excellent. They rarely resort to blasting and make good use of the double bass drum (something which doesn’t seem too common in black metal). Frequently during heavier riffs a cymbal will crash at an odd moment, enforcing the creepiness and tension of the atmosphere.
The vocals are excellent. They are distorted to a degree and they alternate between a very low croak and a higher pitched moan. The lyrics (which are unintelligible without the lyrics sheet or the internet) are very good. They are filled with despair and seem to mock the very idea of hope. They deal with themes of Suicide and Darkness, as do most lyrics in this genre.
The production is very good. It was clearly not done professionally, but it benefits from this. Every instrument (including the bass) is perfectly audible and also at times forms what almost seems like a wall of sound (as much of a contradiction as this seems, it is true).
This is a great album, although I don’t think that it is quite as incredible as Leviathan’s debut. The songs don’t flow together as well, although they still do fit together as a whole they seem more like individual tracks arranged in order rather than a single long journey spread over multiple sections. Still, the songs do fit together quite well and the gain the full effect of the album it must be listened to straight through.
The ambient sections are superb, although there aren’t as many of them as there were in the first album. The heavier sections are better than the last album, but I still think that the prior album’s pacing was better overall. Still, it’s not nearly enough to cripple this release. While the pacing may be inferior to Tenth Sub Level the blend of atmosphere and intensity is still far superior to most other Black Metal.
Despite being marginally inferior to the prior masterpiece, Tentacles of Whorror is still an incredible album. It spans over an hour, but never gets old. It truly immerses you in its dark world, and you won’t want to leave this hellish landscape ever again after you first glimpse its hideous charm. This album stands head and shoulders above the majority of black metal and this is highly recommended for any fan of black metal.
My first introduction to Leviathan was The Tenth Sublevel of Suicide; at the time I thought it was okay, but a bit boring. My interest for Leviathan really didn’t seem to peak for awhile. It was when I acquired Tentacles of Whorror that I began to really enjoy Leviathan. While The Tenth Sublevel… is far superior, Tentacles is a lot more accessible and catchy.
Leviathan plays a style of black metal that is emotional (typically anger or depression), ambient, and dark. Leviathan’s production usually contains a murky and raw; a confined room type of sound (I believe for the majority of his work, besides Tentacles, he just used a four track and recorded in his own apartment). Tentacles production value is much higher than that of any other body of work Wrest has put out. The drums are very prevalent in the mix, the guitars don’t really bleed into the other parts of the music and overall it feels like there’s a lot more low end sound on this album. When I turn up my sub woofer I don’t hear cracks like I do with Tenth Sublevel. Tentacles contains a crisp sound; in only the most “kvlt” way.
Wrest’s drum work is impeccable once again. Wrest is not given enough credit for his drum work in my eyes. The bass does a great role here, giving the album that dark crushing feel and the guitars and other effects take on the task to create the melodies and ambience.
I felt one of the strong points of Tenth Sublevel was that the album was a whole; each track belonged to each other. I feel that unlike Tenth Sublevel, Tentacles contains a bit too much and isn’t a whole vision, but rather several fractured visions. Plenty of songs lead into each other (Heir to the Noose of Ghoul->Cut, With the Night into Mine Heart/ Deciphering Legend Within The Serpent's Briar->A Necessary Mutilation) but they seem like separate entities rather than a concrete body. About the two pairs I mentioned earlier, the first two are very violate and relentless songs, so it works, but the latter don’t have much in common: one simply ends where the other begins. While I like each individual song, I feel that some don’t belong (A Necessary Mutilation, Tentacles of Whorror, and Mouth Orifice Bizarre) simply because their structure clashes too much with the other material or they’re not on par with the other songs.
Tenth Sublevel could be considered a concept album thanks to its lyrics, but musically it fit together as one beast; here Tentacles… well contains different tentacles of that same beast, but they’re all over the place. Songs like Heir to the Noose of Ghoul are more punishing and “violent,” for lack of a better word (there’s even a fucking breakdown here!*), where as some songs, like Requiem for a Turd World, are more melodic and atmospheric. Also I feel some of the ambience is lost on this album when it’s simply tossed into the middle of the album (A Necessary Mutilation.)
This is a much more virtuous album for Wrest, which is both a blessing and a curse. It stands on its own and sounds unique, yet it lacks that special something at times that most of Wrest’s other work contains. It is a great album, and I just have the biased to compare it to Tenth Sublevel. Tentacles of Whorror is a great place for anyone who is attempting to explore Leviathan’s vast catalogue. The real standout tracks to me are Cut, With the Night Into Mine Heart, Requiem for a Turd World, Blood, red and True(Part 3), and What Fresh Hell.
*which is awesome
Leviathan's second full-length album, "Tentacles of Whorror" is pretty much what you'd expect to hear from the bands leader and only member, Wrest. A harrowing journey which takes place over twelve tracks, lasting over one hour and twelve minutes leaves the listener pleading for mercy. Wrest has once again, as with Twilight and Lurker of Chalice created a misanthropic and depressing journey which by the end will have both physically and mentally drained you. Wrest has single handily well, along with Malefic of Xasthur, managed to up the standards and perception of American USBM to compete with that of Norway and Scandinavia in general.
Wrest has managed to create infectious melodies and screams which rival that of any Black Metal icon before him. This is the follow up to the much heralded "The Tenth Sub Level Of Suicide" and there was much debate as to whether or not Wrest could produce a decent enough follow up, in my opinion he certainly has. The furious blasts of the drums, the melodic riffs of the guitars and the haunting screams behind it all are the perfect blend for a night of despair, depressive and suicide. This is an emotive record, which portrays images of suicide and death in general. This is a mid-paced offering of Black Metal, it rarely ventures into the fast side of Black Metal that we have all come to love and cherish, but is often quite relaxing. Certainly a very ambient release, with tonnes of melody behind it all. Fairly monotonous in places, but most fans will have come to expect that from Black Metal on the whole. Songs generally tend to slow down during the middle and play out with highly distorted guitars and somewhat scary screams of despair in the background somewhere. An entirely new genre of music is created here, none before him (Wrest) have managed to create something so unique and crowd pleasing before. Which is certainly quite some contrast considering this comes under the USBM genre, which is highly depressing in it's approach and sound. Leviathan is no different in that respect. There are moments which hit the listener like a punch in the guts. Sometimes venturing to that fast pace and the odd blastbeat is to be heard.
What we have here folks is a pleasing follow up to a brilliant debut album. Certainly worth listening to, especially when the mood takes you.
Hightlights include; "Cut With The Knife Into Mine Heart" and "Vexed And Vomit Hexed".
Production: A continuation of the Leviathan tradition of being an 'at home' recording.
After years of standing in suicidal hell, Wrest focuses on what remains of a shattered psyche; the road of dementia leads straight to "Tentacles of Whorror".
The pure anger and rage of "The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide" is now taken in a different direction; the emotions mentioned are still present, but the created art here is the product of a madman; a psycho that now gives the impression that these emotions no longer just cause pain but also give Wrest a satisfaction of sorts. Pain now equals pleasure; in a way that makes GG Allin seem childish.
Melodies here take the listener to the edge, provoking concern and at times a paranoia that something very bad is about to happen. Mix that with ambient atmosphere effects and an occasional delirious moan or incoherent ramble, and what you have is a representation of insanity that is as close as one can get to it, without being insane themselves.
Melancholy phrases are disturbing in just how haunting they actually are. The effect on the mind runs deep; it is scary just how much the listener's conscious perception of reality is affected by these recordings.
Vocals, following Leviathan tradition, are again harsh, but the different tone of this album causes one to wonder if Wrest volunteered to be murdered while recording his vocal parts. And on top of that, enjoying the experience.
The haunting melodies and schizophrenic vocals are the primary focus, but the bass and drums add so much here that without them this album would lose half it's charm. Bass is recorded and mixed superbly, adding amazing tone and depth to each and every song. Wrest uses this instrument in such ingenious ways; every theme is enhanced by what the bass adds and is used just as hauntingly as the guitar is.
Drumming is handled both with care and with wreckless abandon; again, which style used depends on what emotion is expressed and it's intention on the listener. There is a virtuosity here; an obvious deep understanding of how to use drums effectively, holding back when needed or going wild in a vicious assault when appropriate.
This album achieves it's objective. It is troubling and it is fucked up.
2003's 'The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide' pretty much redefined suicidal and depressive black metal. Even though coming from the USBM scene, every listener was impressed by how depressive and dark the album was. After releasing around 15 demos, Wrest finally released an album which was hailed as a masterpiece by most people who listen to black metal. Then people wondered how 'Tentacles of Whorror' would sound, seing as it would be released about a year after the full-length debut. Would it keep being depressive and suicidal the way people liked it, or would it go on a different path, with a more straightforward hyper-fast black metal?
It sure is different than the debut. Only a few seconds into the first track, the listener immediately realizes that the dark, brooding atmospheres are still intact, but the sound and the riffs are more straightforward. Minimalistic, groove-ridden tracks lead during most of the album, but the horror ambient tracks really shine out on this one. Freaky sounds come out of nowhere, hurling the listener in a void of absolute darkness and mystery. The last track, 'The History of Rape', does that exactly with scary atmosphere, weird sounds and the likes.
I'll remember this album more for its ambient tracks - unlike the 2003 debut which was much more depressive and suicidal, i'd say this release focuses more on darker sounds and atmospheres, while throwing in some minimalistic black metal which most people should like. Hearing this without hearing the debut would make the listener think it's awesome, but compared to the debut, it's pretty average.