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Leviathan - Massive Conspiracy Against All Life - 75%

ravenhearted, August 5th, 2008

Since 1998 the one-man project LEVIATHAN (driven by the Californian tattoo-artist known as Wrest) has built a reputation as one of the absolute pioneers and prodigal children of the USBM-scene. After a ridiculous number of demos and splits, as well as two full-lengths, ranging in quality from daft bedroom-Metal to depressive masterpieces, "Massive Conspiracy Against All Life" apparently marks the end of his reign, since Wrest reportedly will focus on his other project, LURKER OF CHALICE, in the future.

For his third proper album, Wrest has abandoned some of the characteristics of his earlier material in favor of a grander evil sound inspired by bands in the vein of the revered DEATHSPELL OMEGA and BLUT AUS NORD. The number of ambient segments that used to provide an eerie backdrop have been reduced, the strong bass-lines have been dropped in the favor of a sharp guitar sound, and many songs have downplayed the depressive mood, instead taking a larger-than-life misanthropic approach. The production is still dirty, the drums are confined to the background and Wrest's vocals still come on the form of distorted grunts and crude growls, with the odd animal noises and howls thrown in. In other words, this isn't a simple rehashing of earlier work, but it's still very clear that "Massive Conspiracy Against All Life" is a beast that could only have emerged from the twisted maw of LEVIATHAN.

By this point it should be obvious that Wrest knows exactly what he's doing, and while I don't blame him for trying a new formula, the lack of stand-out tracks still feels like a weak move at this stage of the band's life. The songs aren't indistinguishable from each other, but they all seem to more or less follow the same recipe of an evil riff that feels like the armies of hell marching to war, followed by a short ambient break, before they return with twice the force and ferocity (“Noisome Ash Crown” is the only real exception, and feels more like a LURKER OF CHALICE track in its creepiness). However, there is enough force in every riff to ensure a strong collection of songs, and the “total warfare”-feeling is an approach that works well for LEVIATHAN.

Coming from any other band, this would be a fantastic release, but the lack of key-elements that made Wrest the most original American Black Metal artist out there will disappoint many old-time fans. To some extent this sentiment includes yours truly, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't have "Massive Conspiracy Against All Life" sitting on your shelf alongside his earlier masterpieces, and in retrospect it feels like a somewhat worthy eulogy for one of the most outstanding bands in Black Metal.

(Online August 5, 2008)

Ailo Ravna

Written for the Metal Observer