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Leviathan is one of the forerunners in the black metal scene of the United States. Before releasing his absolutely amazing debut full-length album "The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide", Wrest (Jef Whitehead) went through a very prolific demo period from 1998 through 2002. This album, entitled "Verräter", is a compilation of various tracks from those demo tapes. Usually, I steer clear of compilations as they have a reputation of being either a "cash grab", or they just contain boring tracks. This is an example of a compilation that is worth the value of a full-length album, and contains 2 discs of material from Leviathan's early demos. For anyone who wants to hear the band's demo material, this is definitely a solid listen.
Most depressive suicidal black metal (DSBM) bands play slow, dense songs that sometimes sound funeral doom influenced. Bands like Austere, Xasthur, and Depressive Years tend to prefer playing slow dirges rather than fast-paced black metal. Wrest certainly does implement ambience in his music, with eerie, haunting keys and some of the most horrifying vocals in the genre. However, Leviathan's music at times is played at a uniquely fast pace. There are some furious riffs on this album. In the "One Man Metal" film, during an interview, Wrest actually said "I always wanted to play faster. Leviathan is not that fast, but it's as fast as I can play". Leviathan actually does play fairly fast especially considering a lot of bands that play DSBM. In reality, this has more in common with standard black metal than anything. The guitars on this album are fairly dark. They go from fast-paced buzzsaw riffs to extremely doom-influenced, melancholic sections.
Wrest's vocals are what really make this music well...scary. His screams literally sound like Satan. I cannot think of a better description. A tortured, depressed, maniacal Satan. This horrific sounding atmosphere is only amplified by the raw, demo-style production. But in reality, while this compilation is indeed made up of demo tracks, they were recorded quite well. The production is clear enough to hear what is going on and we can even hear some bass in the mix at times, but it is raw enough to maintain that bleak atmosphere which is a staple for this style of music. The drums are executed quite nicely here, and they don't really sound like a drum machine. While I was watching that aforementioned "One Man Metal" film, Wrest was playing an electric drum kit. They certainly don't sound fake and we are assaulted by sonic blastbeats on a regular basis. This is definitely some of the most aggressive depressive black metal out there, and a good collection of songs in the ambient yet chaotic style Leviathan is known for playing.
My only complaint is the album's two and a half hour runtime of music that all sounds very similar to each other. This is definitely some good music but for new fans of black metal and to people who are just getting into Leviathan, this can sound somewhat monotonous. The songs are great but really don't vary that much from each other. For someone who already listens to and enjoys Leviathan, and wants to experience his demo days, this is definitely a worthy collection to immerse yourself in. For those who are completely new to the band, check out "The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide" first and go from there.
Wrest is undoubtedly one of the leaders in the USBM scene and this collection of songs is an important one for anyone looking to become more familiar with his work or add to their collection. Verrater is significant not only because it includes Leviathan material previously only available on independent CD-Rs but because it represents material that establishes the foundation on which Leviathan and eventually Lurker of Chalice were built.
Verrater is actually 2 discs with German titles. The first disc is entitled Schadenfreude, which means deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others, and the second krankheit, or illness. Together they are prime examples of that raw Leviathan US black metal sound with a penchant for catchy riffs and melodies twisted to suit darker purposes.
Where Wrest truly excels is in creating atmosphere by effective use of unity, variety, and tempo. These elements are what made the Lurker of Chalice offering so appealing. Leviathan, meanwhile, attracted listeners with a grim, faster sound common to traditional black metal with creative elements introduced that could later be found on LOC. Not surprisingly, the material found on Verrater seems well aligned with both Lurker of Chalice and Leviathan. Certain songs, however, such as Courtship of the Discarded and Suckling at the Teat of Revenge are uncompromisingly Leviathan.
The preponderance of LOC type material might disappoint those more appreciative of Leviathan. Still, there is enough in common between the two projects that fans of either should be satisfied. Any complaints about this release could be expressed about USBM in general. Those not fond of the genre should steer clear. Verrater is simply a collection of previously released but harder to find material from one of the most important figures in the scene. Most importantly, Verrater should appeal to anyone interested in becoming more familiar with either of Wrest’s projects.
One day I stumbled upon this release, and figured Leviathan would have a fairly depressive and atmospheric sound (as they did a split with Xasthur). After listening to it, I realized that they are just another multi-releasing, over-hyped USBM act expressing their love for depression and suicide and hate for anyone who isn't grymm, evil, and covered in corpsepaint.
Now for the actual music. The riffs are normally generic, mostly sticking to basic, mid-paced power chord formations, rarely creating any atmosphere whatsoever, and often throwing in cheesey breaks in which cymbals crash to the beat of the riff and it continues in its simplicity. Songs continue as this for pretty much the whole double disc set. The vocals are simple torture screams, which I am not averse to, but the music itself I cannot tolerate. A few riffs have a disharmonized, depressive tone, but that hope for liking this album at all is killed by the second or third riff of the song falling into the lame, generic USBM sound.
If you're looking for something exactly the same as all post-2000 mutil-releasing USBM bands, go for this.