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A Lackluster Ending - 83%

WinterBliss, June 9th, 2008

Wrest has made quite a name for himself in the extreme metal scene for the past five years or so, with numerous Eps, and two prior full lengths, the prestige that Leviathan has received is beyond that of most USBM bands. Unlike the other well received USBM band (Judas Iscariot) Wrest has forged his own, unique sound which none can match. Being a large fan of Leviathan myself, I can adequately describe what makes Leviathan so enticing to me, simply put; it is the enthralling nature of Leviathan that has kept me hooked. Wrest's ability to craft vast, ethereal atmospheres, sometimes harrowing, sometimes blissful, is just one of the many traits that has made me enjoy this band so much. While the atmosphere is concrete, it is also the way he so subtlety manipulates melodies to reflect whichever mood or emotion he wishes. Leviathan is multifaceted in a way that very few bands are. There are extremely atmospheric and moody sections, then there are your melodic and catchy areas, and then there are plenty of times where you can just bang your head. All these things that have made me worship the multitude of releases are present within Massive... but they are stretched far and wide.

Massive Conspiracy Against All Life is a Leviathan album for sure, no doubts about that, but (and I emphasize that but) it is not the Leviathan that I have come to embrace as my favorite band. Here Wrest tries his hand at a more frightful and disturbing, if you will, atmosphere. The first thing that I thought of whilst listening to Massive... was Deathspell Omega's Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Fas... it's a jarring departure from Deathspell's melodic, and even catchy at times, Si Monumentum Requires, Circumspice, instead it is extremely dense and atonal. The reason why my mind automatically struck up the comparison was because of the hollow nature that I attribute to both Massive and Fas. Sections like the beginning to the second track, "Merging with Sword, Onto Them", and the end of "Made as the Stale Wine of Wrath" seems to break up any momentum the album tries to carry.

Which leads me to my largest complaint, the songwriting.

Wrest's strongest attribute in my mind is his ability to craft enthralling atmospheres which wind and slither as the song progresses, with melodies appearing here and there, and more venomous sections every so often. With Massive, each track seems to carry the same, dense and foreboding atmosphere, but it seems to rarely progress, to me it even feels that some songs are broken up so much that they could be standalone releases themselves. An example of this are the first two tracks, the first one is a scathing blast beat track that thins out into a boring, murky intro for the second song which flickers back and forth for many minutes, until it finally picks up within the last half of the song. Every song, except the first, ends on an ambient note which I guess is used to induce an overall atmosphere, but to me it just makes the album as a whole very inaccessible.

The songs themselves are enjoyable, few, if any really stick out to me, which wouldn't be such a big deal if I felt the album was more concrete and fastened tighter to itself. "IV-XI-IV" is a great song that contains that hypnotic blast beat that has become quite a staple of Wrest's. Along with that, there's the last three minutes to "Merging with Sword, Onto Them" which I find to be the high point of the album. The album plods along until we reach "Receive the World" which explodes in a torrent of drums and buzzing guitars. After that track fades out we get "Vulgar Asceticism" which strongly reminds me of Blut Aus Nord's The Work Which Transforms God, the kind of tripped out guitar and never ending drums and distant vocals create an eerie atmosphere. Like many of the songs, the structure is vast and overwhelming; the changes within many of these tracks is simply astonishing. "Noisome Ash Crown" serves as an ambient ending to this massive album.

As always, the musicianship is topnotch, even more so then previous releases. There are many atypical rhythms, jarring and unusual guitar progressions, and plenty of stuff that just is over my head. Along with the musicianship, the production is quite fitting; it is a lot fuller and warmer sounding than most Leviathan releases. To me, I feel this is Wrest's most complex work to date; unfortunately it has lost much of what made me such a fan of Leviathan. By no means is this album bad, but it does not compare to the Tenth Sublevel... and doesn't contain enough good songs like Tentacles. This appears to be Leviathan's most mature and complex work to date, its place in Leviathan's discography is just as important as Kenose is to DSO or The Mystical Beast Of Rebellion to BAN, it marks a significant change in style; for better or worse is for you to decide.