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The constructive suicide letter - 98%

The_Black_Goldfish, January 28th, 2018

“Criminally underrated!”

That was the words that struck me, when I was confronted with the unusually low rating (67% before this review) of “Massive Conspiracy Against All Life”, henceforth “MCAAL”. A score I now blatantly aim to rectify.

Originally intended as the second full-length album of Lurker of Chalice, another project of mastermind Wrest/Jef Whitehead, this album was re-molded into being the supposed “last” album of Leviathan, at least for a while. That history is interesting in itself, but the subject matter and context of the album itself deserves more attention. I am going to make a strong observation that this album was supposed to be a musical equivalent of a suicide letter.

Allow me to elaborate; MCAAL was birthed at difficult time. To anyone who haven't watched the documentary “One Man Metal”, Wrest is shown talking about Leviathan, and about this period of his life in particular, marked by the death of his then-girlfriend and his own attempted suicide shortly after. While I am a bit hesitant to draw a conclusion on this matter, the track “VI-XI-VI” could be a song about the death of Wrest's then-girlfriend (“VI-XI-VI” = roman numerals for the date she died). This song goes strangely quiet after the middle part, like a piece is missing. Like a piece of yourself has gone missing. The lyrics to this song have yet to be published, perhaps they are too personal? IF that is the case, then what a way to turn something so destructive into something constructive.

The mood of MCAAL reflects this utter despair and hopelessness of the situation. While earlier Leviathan albums remain mostly aggressive throughout their running time, MCAAL has a lot of more eerie, sombre ambient moments (“Merging with Sword, onto Them” and “VI-XI-VI” being examples), reminiscent of the dark ambiance from “A Silhouette in Splinters” and Lurker of Chalice. You still get your high-tempo blasts and ferocious riffing of course, but it feels more rationed.

The album starts with the same ambient sounds as the ending of “Tenth Sub-level of Suicide” (Implying continuity?), until launching into the fast-paced cacophonous drumming we've come to know most black metal, and Leviathan, for. The tracks seem to flow by, never getting boring, and keeping the surprises coming; the ending of "Made as the Stale Wine of Wrath" goes into a very haunting ambiance after a hellish ride through the mind of Wrest. However this time with the added bonus of a single bass guitar and guitar feedback, giving the impression of hopelessness and how your existence is futile. If the listener is easily disturbed, then caution should be taken.

Musically, everything is crisp. The guitar tone is crunchy, almost buzzing. Harmonies give way to disharmonious and frenzied tremolos. The bass is given its proper moments to shine (The intro to “Merging with Sword, onto Them” and the ending to “Made as the Stale Wine of Wrath.” stealing the show), while all-throughout the album is an ominous synth-ambiance weaving an atmosphere of misery and torment. Rarely have I heard depression translated so well into music. The structure of the songs rarely, if ever, conforms to the standard ABABC-formula, and as a listener, you are constantly left guessing as to what tricks Wrest will show you, keeping you in an unfamiliar place at most times.

Another song, worth of note is the second track, “Merging with Sword, onto Them”, a hell of a roller-coaster. Starting in the aforementioned eerie ambiance, it evolves into a maddening ride of frantic blasting and screaming. It's about now I should mention that the drum-work is absolutely impeccable, shifting between what can only be described as Wrest blasting at the top of his own endurance, to a surprisingly jazzy and mellow beat. The song ends in one of the most depressive, yet passionate, riffs I have ever endured. One of the highlights of this album.

I believe “Vulgar Asceticism” has the most terrifying ending to a Leviathan-song ever conceived. The choice of riffs and the way they are played lends no comfort. It's as if you are at the end of your life and you are about to end it yourself. The almost ritualistic rhythmic pounding of the drums begs your sanity to just end it all. It has to be experienced, as I cannot convey how powerful this ending is.

The only track that feels out-of-place on this album is the last one, “Noisome Ash Crown”. I feel this definitely should have been saved for anything else, but the closing track on this journey. It still is bearing Wrest's trademark sound, but far more suited for Lurker Of Chalice-material, as it is almost entirely Ambient-driven. This is no fault of the track though, but it feels... out of context, here. It does end with the same ambient noises that started the album, and thus the circle is complete.

Hopefully, I am not the only one seeing this album as the masterpiece it is, in its dark suicidal glory. And thankfully we got Wrest back making music now ("Scar Sighted" is equally commendable.). I have seen fit to give this album a score of 98%, based on its originality, the uncompromising atmosphere and very talented musicianship. If you do not already own this album, make an effort to become an owner of it.