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Let's be honest: black metal fans love controversy. The modern form of the genre was born from out of a slew of church burnings, murders and suicides. The crimes and the music were beautifully blended together, i.e. Dead's shattered corpse on the cover of Dawn of the Black Hearts and the torched Fantoft stave church on the cover of Aske. So in a respect Leviathan's latest release, True Traitor, True Whore is a throwback. Extreme crimes blended together with dark, maniacal music.
Well, it looks like Wrest didn't actually sexually assault his girlfriend with tattoo tools, but that's not stopping him from capitalizing on the hype the allegations brought to him. True Traitor, True Whore is loaded with misogynistic phrases and dirty innuendos that keep those vile accusations in your mind throughout. However, apparently Wrest spent more time thinking up witty ways to express his hatred of women than he did devising interesting compositions. Amongst Leviathan's fairly impressive (albeit slightly overhyped) discography, True Traitor, True Whore is easily the weakest full length.
Musically, True Traitor, True Whore is surprisingly conventional when compared to works like Tentacles of Whorror or The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide. Those earlier albums were like riding some dizzying hyper-coaster that twisted you about in every way imaginable and left you nauseous and disoriented. True Traitor, True Whore is more like a marry-go-round; you can sort of see what's coming. The album is devised of several elements: fast and twisted black metal, slow and dirty passages and trippy stretches of blackened shoegaze. A lot of Wrest's success has relied on mixing these elements in unexpected ways. However, here all the shifts are pretty predictable. In the same way that seeing an all white canvas in a museum surprises no one anymore, neither do Wrest's musical twists and turns. Furthermore, he often telegraphs the changes, removing the element of surprise.
More problematic is that the performance is halfhearted. These songs are not seeped with fury, pain or madness. They sort of posture the feelings like a daytime TV actor. This album doesn't draw out those maddening psychopathic juices that previous Leviathan albums did. Wrest sounds tired; for most of the album it feels like he's just going through the motions. The guitars are weak and keys are tepid. Only the percussion draws much interest.
Now there are some decent passages throughout the album. Some of the more somber shoegazing passages are quite satiating and every once in a while there's a dose of disoriented, fucked up dissonance that stands up to Wrest's prior releases. However, most of this album just happens. It passes by like the daily commute; barely noticed. The only standout track is the heavy, depressive closer “Blood Red and True” which slams down gritty slabs of tragic doom and tops it off with luminous layers of swirling post rock riffs.
But like a bland symphony with some nice fanfare at the end, the closer cannot compensate for the pedestrian journey that preceded it. While there is nothing explicitly offensive or obnoxious about True Traitor, True Whore it ultimately lacks innovation, passion and staying power. All in all, this album is more hype than substance.
(Originally written for www.deafsparrow.com)