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Most mismatched pairing to be found on a split - 70%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, February 24th, 2013

At least in the realms of black metal, Americans and Russians are able to co-exist very well as demonstrated in this split album between USBM act Leviathan and the then duo Blackdeath from St Petersburg (Vladimir Putin's hometown). Each band contributes four songs to the album. Blackdeath plays a raw and ferocious style of primitive black metal with very demented singing, from what I remember of their "Saturn Sector" recording which to be honest didn't have much variety and wasn't very good. Leviathan have a more atmospheric style of black metal but there is still a strong aggressive element to the music.

On their side of the split, Blackdeath initially indulge in a lot of deranged vocal gymnastics against a background of noisy, buzzy black metal guitar shower. Track 2, "Der absolute Bose" is a bit more melodic than the first song but the croaky singing, or what passes for croaky singing, is still batshit nutty. Any differences in Blackdeath's contributions to the split are mainly in the details of the songs, analogous to fine print on legal documents which as we all know nobody ever takes notice of. The style stays the same throughout, ditto for the pace and the vocal style, and listeners can get the impression that the four songs must be linked chapters in one opus. The fourth and final track has different vocals from the other three - they're more bloodcurdling and a little deeper - but the music remains stubbornly the same.

Leviathan's side of the split begins with a sinister spoken incantation that opens the flood-gates to a genuinely aggressive and savage song "Corpse Glide (Beneath Great Dragon)" with a fierce if ragged vocal, pummelling rhythms and some bubbling tremolo lead guitar work. Each track begins with a spoken-voice sample that gets swept aside by a dramatic and often stupendous instrumental passage that introduces the main riffs and brings some aspect of Leviathan's style into very sharp focus: in "Mine Portrait in Scars", this is a sparkly guitar tone that is almost bluesy in feel. The singing here is more genuinely melancholy and anguished and the tone of guitar and the tremolo playing reinforce this sad atmosphere. Ambient space effects supply a dizzying mood that might allude to the disorienting depths of depression.

"The Wither Season" showcases the more ambient side of Leviathan: it's a deeply blues-influenced track with very dark jangly guitar chords and a charging noise-guitar blizzard, from beneath which pained synthesiser melody and guitar drone try to pass into the foreground. Banshee wails are just barely audible. "Derision" is a fairly straightforward piece with solid vibrato guitar riffs, militant drumming which might be a mixture of programmed beats and Jeff Whitehead's own efforts on the skins, and howling vocals filled with the pain of depression and other mental illness. There's also some experimentation with processed guitars and distorted voices.

Without a doubt, Leviathan put more effort into its side of the split in spite of there being only one person in that act while Blackdeath had the benefit of two in 2005. It's a pity this recording is so uneven: Blackdeath's half seems to be a continuation of that earlier album of theirs that I mentioned while Leviathan's half is practically a summation of what Whitehead is capable of in writing and playing music, and suggests that if he wanted to, he could take Leviathan into a more experimental, space-ambient, almost sound-art direction.