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Strange but Fucking Awesome - 95%

Morbe, March 5th, 2018

This release from the American black metal godhead has new influences and expands a lot on different musical genres while maintaining the iconic darkness in Wrests music. On this album he explores dark ambient while maintaining the raw black metal sounds that signify him as an artist, which gives a strange and exaggerated blend of black metal and darker ambient or atmospheric interludes. On top of that, Wrest (being a talented artist) painted quite the collection for this album, taking lighter pale blue tones with a darker red to create images that really are telling about the album.

The blast beats and overbearing volume of the stringed instruments is present as with most of his other work, as well as the strangulated screams and howls that are so unique to Leviathan. There are some tracks where he goes really low however, pushing a low register death growl that rattles you. The best example of this is on the track: “A Veil Is Lifted” where the deep unnerving growl is paired with some slow beat and the hum of a guitar. Then the vocals quickly shoot up to a high register alongside a blast beat for a howl with more wet reverb then you can shake a stick at, which was fucking awesome.

There are yet tracks to diversify the experience, the opening track “-“ and “Within Thrall” are both really good examples of this. The opening track is short and sweet, with a soft ambient feeling to it. The introduction to “Within Thrall” sounds like some low voiced dudes doing some singing together, only to be swiftly replaced by a fast and heavy as hell black metal riff with a blast beat. The song calms down a little bit then comes back full force with Wrest belting out these mid-high range vocals that, again, rattle you.

The production on this album is as kvlt as ever, the only difference being the seemingly high produced ambient portions, or the synths that sometimes bleed into the guitar riffs at points. The overall instrumentation holds true to the low production value, a lot of lovely overbearing distortion and “thick” sound to the drums at points.

The title track: “Scar Sighted” is really powerful, imagine Burzum’s “Dunkelheit” with Leviathans pained moans in the back, slowly fading in and out of being those iconic black metal howls. The slow riff is just overbearing, at points it dies down and you can really hear the bass and the hi-hats. The song then goes back to being as kvlt as you can get. Its dark, its foreboding, its Leviathan.

Overall this is a great album from Leviathan. I really don’t have a single gripe about it. I am usually not a fan of the death metal type vocals in my black metal, or rather what I expect to be black metal. But it honestly sounds closer to Mayhems “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” in terms of vocals which I don’t mind as much, kinda nostalgic. They definitely fit the tone of the lyrics as well. So again, great fucking album, its heavy like you expect from Leviathan just with some ambient twists and turns.

Bold steps towards new directions. - 96%

DSOfan97, February 26th, 2016

Wrest can definitely claim that he has been through some serious shit in his life. Life has given him too many lemons to count and recently he had to overcome the horrid accusations (all false) of an ex partner. However his life has been going well lately. Why am I telling you all this? Because it's all here of course! The pain, the anguish, the anger... The catharsis. Scar Sighted is a test for the mind and the soul. It will make you think of bizarre and horrible stuff, it will make you depressed and it will drive you damn near insanity. And in the end; it will reward you.

The eerie yet calming chord progression of the opening track will lead you straight into 'The Smoke of the Torment' and that's where the roller coaster ride begins. You will find the fierce, spastic power chords of the early days, the sparse ambient breaks of 'A Silhouette in Splinters' era as well as some new elements like death metal grooves. If you want a reference point check out Dead Congregation's sophomore album to get an idea. And finally with great pleasure you will discover that Lurker of Chalice's legacy has not been forgotten. You will encounter dissonant/consonant melodies intertwining with each other, experimental structuring and spine chilling crescendos where Wrest's performance is so damn amazing it should be taught in high school music classes.

The instrumentation doesn't vary from previous Leviathan efforts, however the execution makes the difference. Way more technical than any other Leviathan or Lurker of Chalice album it stands out as one of the most amazing of 2015. The tempo is altered multiple times and none of them feels awkward, whereas there are moments that would normally sound horrible BUT when Wrest decides to do a weird acoustic break with maniacal vocals all over it, you just remain silent and listen in awe.

Another great thing here is that Wrest uses his goth rock influences extensively. Everyone who has listened his 'V (Demo Five)' demo knows that he is a big fan of goth rock, death rock and post punk. For the first time I listened to Leviathan and said: "Hey that reminds me of Christian Death and Bauhaus". And it's a good feature, I mean it really works for the album. And when those softer emotional moments are in contrast with the more straightforward metal moments the result is monumental.

If one wants to be fair, then one must give props to Billy Anderson for his exquisite work on the production and mixing. It is the best ever in any album in which Wrest is involved. The bass is audible, the guitars are constantly piercing your eardrums not in the old fashioned, lo-fi demo production but in a more skull crushing sense which has been first demonstrated during the 00's and established in the current decade. Now about the sound of the drums... Actually you know what? Fuck it I'm going to have a paragraph only for them.

Drums are Wrest's prime instrument. The one he has practiced long before his solo projects, since he was in Gift Horse (his first band). He knows how to do some tasty fills and great rolls on the toms. His skills are quite underrated to be honest but I'm sure that Scar Sighted will fix this at first chance, showing to everyone what a great drummer Wrest is. It's not that you will hear insane blast beats but there's something way, way larger here. It is his elegant, thoughtful style that wins the game. If he has to, he will apply a less-is-more approach to his playing. If he feels he needs to crush the damn instrument to dust he will do so. So yes in some peculiar way the drums are the highlight here.

But on the other hand every instrument highlights the album's aesthetic, which is both suffocating and beautiful (some times simultaneously) and that is quite hard to come across in these days. Be it the guitars that create melodies that make your hair stand, the bass that provides the needed dose of heaviness even in the most ethereal passages, of course the drums and the synths and last but not least Wrest's voice which is just magnificent. Listen to the title track to get an idea. Those screams are achieved only once in a lifetime.

On a final note, I often listen to Scar Sighted as if it is the soundtrack to the life of a man that has gone through horrible situations (such as those in the first paragraph). The depressing atmosphere which leads to the relieving finale is the perfect score for every hardship you've been through. And you can follow an imaginary timeline for each one of those. Scar Sighted is a work of ART (in capitals). A total milestone bound to become an absolute reference point for the next generations of black metal bands and listeners alike. Scar Sighted can make you stand on your feet when you're down therefore it is essential.

Favorite tracks: I cannot pick but if I had to I'd say 'Wicked Fields of Calm', 'A Veil is Lifted' and 'All Tongues Toward'.


A torturous journey in the abyss. - 90%

Kheygo, January 14th, 2016

I've always seen Leviathan as a black metal project. More precisely, as an ambient black metal project. But when Jef Whitehead (a.k.a. Wrest) said he isn't making black metal anymore, after hearing this album, I must agree with the man. Scar Sighted, as whole, sounds more like death metal. Of course, tracks like "Gardens of Corprolite" are still black metal as hell. But if you hear the whole thing, this sounds more like a death metal album with elements of doom, drone and noise, which is quite a shift from Leviathan's usual style.

Brutal low-end riffs, low-pitched growls and dissonant passages are just some of the chaos this album provides, and it shows exactly how it is more focused on death metal, and not purely on black metal. The thing Leviathan has that no other project caused in me, is making me, actually, afraid to hear a record and, also, the sense of despair and sadness its albums bring up. For example, in this record we have "Dawn Vibration", which is the perfect example of how Leviathan can scare you to death, but also bring up some emotions you don't think could be brought up by any type pf music. The song is full of excelent riffs and drumming, but the cherry on top of the cake is in the middle of the song, when Wrest starts strumming these chords in the background and screaming his lungs out. You can feel exactly what that tormented soul is feeling through that part of the song. All the pain, agony and despair. Its so clear that you can almost see it. This is one of the main elements that makes this project so exciting and different from the others. Its emotions are not forced. It's almost as Wrest was really hurting himself to record those vocals, because it all sounds so natural and organic. It's a really desperating experience for the listener, in a good way.

As I've said before, black metal is still present, but not alone, and less apparent. Wrest gives us other elements that, wisely, uses the black metal as a tool to create an even more terrifying atmosphere. It's not like usual. It's not black metal using other genres and different elements to create an ambience, it's the other way around. Whitehead is experimenting with other genres, and making them the main meal, while using black metal to make this whole thing creepy as hell. One of Jef Whitehead's greatest traits is his ability to take these slow moments to put the listener in pure agony and despair, in the most primitive way possible. Like in the title-track, for example, "Scar Sighted". While I was listening to this track, I constantly kept looking behind to see if anyone was there, just like on "Dawn Vibration". The first 7 minutes of this track made me kind of paranoid. It's so distressful to hear this soul screaming in my pain directly into my ears, but then, the despair is finished, and we're once again brutalized by supersonic riffs and the track turns into a blasting black metal song and a fades away. The difference in this album from the previous Leviathan material, is that black metal, now, is just a side-kick. There are many other things in this album to freak us out, and that's what makes it so special and unique.

Overall, this is the kind of album that deserves multiple listens. Not only to admire this dark, twisted and terrifying piece of pure art, but to also absorb all its content. This is a very, very dense record and Jef Whitehead managed to compile every great thing he has ever done into a single record. This is arguably the best album Leviathan has ever put out, and is one of my favorite releases of this year in music, in general. This record rises to the most brutal session of torture, then is left to agonize in a clautrophobic chamber and then, finally, slowly, perishes into the a river of tortured souls, writhing eternally.

Best tracks: "The Smoke Of Their Torment", "Dawn Vibration", "Within Thrall", "Scar Sighted", "All Tongues Towards" and "Aphonos"

A new twist smothered in the same old darkness - 98%

Serenityinaz12, March 17th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, Digital, Profound Lore Records (Bandcamp)

Wrest originally said he was done with Leviathan, then he came back with True Traitor True Whore, which many considered to be his weakest full length release up to that point. While that of course is debatable, one thing is sure - there was a buzz about this release and whether or not Leviathan would see a universally agreed upon return to prominence or a further plummet from his earlier works that are held in such high esteem. Luckily for the music community and especially fans of black metal, Wrest said to hell with your expectations and delivered an absolutely crushing CD that not only would quality as a "return to form" but also dabbles in a lot of new things.

The first thing that people are going to notice without a doubt is the death metal influence which hits you in the face right away after the atmospheric intro. As opposed to having a typical Leviathan style in the first part of the CD and getting into some experimental stuff later, he just blasts you in the face with it instantly. The first 2 tracks, The Smoke of Their Torment and Dawn Vibration seem to be the most death metallish on the CD, but it also incorporates some sound that will make you think of Deathspell Omega and such. Damn good songs even though they aren't typical Leviathan in nature. And even with the change in pace on these songs you still get the typical Leviathan pace changes and atmospheric interludes in the songs.

From this point going forward the release goes deeper and deeper into blackness and typical Leviathan. While there are still the occasional cookie monsterish death metal vocal parts that come up occasionally, it is mostly limited to the first couple tracks. The rest of the CD sees a consistent descent into more and more tortured raspy vocals, crushing depressive atmospheres, and just an overall blackness that feels like it's going to suck your soul away from you. Any longtime fan that may listen to the first few tracks and be put off by their different style need not fret, you will get your fill of soul crushing torture and evil.

As is typical with Leviathan, the layers are endless and you will notice new things for a long time as you listen to the songs over and over. And how many times do I need to say this - the atmosphere on this release is palpable and soul destroying.

While I'm hesitant in saying this is Leviathan's best release, I can say with confidence that, at least in this reviewer's opinion, there isn't a throw away track on the release. Some people may see it lazy that track 5 (Wicked Fields of Calm) is a redo of his song Pondering the Wealth of the Stars from The Speed of Darkness EP, but that song was so damn good and likely unheard by many anyway it's hard to fault Jeff for adding it. For me it's hard to pick a best track on this release since it's so solid overall - but if I had to the title track Scar Sighted would be it. So dark, so black, so crushing in it's pain and torture.

This is easily AOTY material, and hopefully the start of another onslaught of new music from Leviathan. If all of his future work is going to be the quality of this release, damn we've got a lot to look forward to.

Solid Album of the Year Contender - 90%

Jus36, March 15th, 2015

Far removed from the days of the dsbm essential, Tenth Sub Level of Suicide, comes Jef Whitehead's latest album under Leviathan, Scar Sighted. Nearly four years since the last album, Jef seems to have spawned something that has the usual dissonance and atmosphere you'd expect from a Leviathan, yet creates something new and writes rather weird music, yet still accessible to fans of his black metal and ambient works.

In all honesty, I was somewhat skeptical of how good this album would turn out since "The Smoke of Their Torment" had too much dissonance during the choruses for my taste, but the rest album from then on surprised me greatly with how truly fantastic this album really is. Jef's vocals are insanely eerie and haunting, to the point of almost being disturbing and painful to listen to. To the chants, howls, growls, etc, the singing is such an amazing aspect of Scar Sighted and is what kept me keenly interested in this album. The ambient tracks on here are splendid and create even more of an atmosphere on previous Leviathan's LP's, to the point of creating a painful landscape of baroness, yet can still be evilly aggressive. This album's similarities to Jef's Lurker of Chalice work is grand and I'd highly recommend it to any fans of Lurker of Chalice. His musicianship across all instruments are fantastic on here, from the dissonance of the riffs, the hammering of the drums, and rather audible bass (audible bass in black metal is always a plus with me, since the bass is usually washed out in the mixing a majority of the times.) The album length itself is pretty much perfect, just spanning over an hour of play time. Not too short, and it doesn't feel dragged out whatsoever.

All in all, Jef has made another very good album that any black metal fan should definitely check out, and I'm sure this will be on plenty of peoples album of the year lists.

Leviathan - Scar Sighted - 93%

cdmolenaar, March 11th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Profound Lore Records (Boxed set)

Jef Whitehead’s last album was an oddity. Like many, I was disappointed in True Traitor, True Whore. As a testament to Wrest’s rage against his criminal charges, it succeeded, creating an air of palpable spite in its dark, punkish ferocity; as a Leviathan album, though, it fell flat. The riffs and arrangements had been grossly simplified. The deep complexity that had made Wrest’s previous albums like Massive Conspiracy Against All Life so richly compelling had been sacrificed for pure primal rage.

All wrongs are righted with the release of Scar Sighted, Leviathan’s newest full-length release and first since True Traitor, True Whore. In fact, Scar Sighted puts forth some of the most consistent yet diverse material in all of Whitehead’s considerable discography.

The release of a new Leviathan album post-2011 is an occasion for critics to wet themselves with glee as they analyze not just the music contained therein but all the extra-musical circumstances that may have factored in to the album’s songwriting. The conversation of separating art from its creator is one that has long been discussed even just in the tiny sphere of the metal world. I have nothing to add that has not already been said a million times before, so for this review I’d like to focus solely on the music (what a concept). As a musician, Whitehead exists in the pantheon of Great Artists willing to reinvent themselves over and over in pursuit of perfection. With Scar Sighted, he is one step closer. This album proves Whitehead is unafraid to draw from his own unique, immediately identifiable style and recreate it in a way unlike any of his past works.

After a brief introductory track, the album proper begins with “The Smoke of Their Torment,” a roaring black metal mini-epic reminiscent at times of The Ruins of Beverast at their darkest. “Dawn Vibration” follows with a flurry of metallic hammer-on riffs and a soaring tremolo picked coda, and the album is on its way.

Much of Scar Sighted feels slower and perhaps even groovier than any of Wrest’s past material, other than perhaps his work in Twilight. But this is far from a problem: the serpentine guitars weave uroboric tapestries of putrefaction, lending a sense of claustrophobic frenzy to the album’s downbeat riffs. This review would be remiss were it not to make mention of Billy Anderson’s absolutely stellar production. The recording is crystal clear and each element of the mix is given ample room while still maintaining an overwhelmingly powerful atmosphere. The drum sound in particular is fantastic, full of body with ample room for splashing cymbals.

“Within Thrall” signals the start of the second half of the album, and this is where things pick up. The song opens with nylon string guitars and Wrest mourning “the death of the gloaming” before being overtaken by a storm of tremolo riffs that segue into a ringing, seasick bridge. Where the first five tracks do in their own ways expand on the core Leviathan sound, it’s the choirs, ropey guitar parts and mechanical ambiance so present on the next five that make the album shine. Songs like “A Veil is Lifted” are more in line with Whitehead’s work in Lurker of Chalice, with vocals vomited forth over a simple drum beat and layers of dark noise.

The title track opens with layered chanting dominated shortly thereafter by doomy riffage and haunting clean guitar melodies before transitioning into the martial drums and volume swells of “All Tongues Toward,” a tack which offers the listener a brief reprieve before breaking into the curious brand of perplexingly raging yet somber black metal one has come to expect from Leviathan.

Unfortunately, the one-two punch of these tracks (undoubtedly two of the strongest on the album) is supplanted by “Aphōnos,” a meandering seven minutes of directionless rock riffs and shouting. It is its lopsidedness that prevents Scar Sighted from being the perfect album it could be; the album’s most memorable songs are relegated to the back half, but even their most powerful moments are cut short by a weak closer.

This is not enough to ruin the album, though. While its structure may be odd and still requiring of fine tuning, Wrest has long demonstrated his willingness to continue doing just that. Scar Sighted may be Leviathan’s finest outing in years and represents Whitehead’s latest middle finger to convention.

Originally published on the Toilet ov Hell

Swirling expression of negativity. - 84%

ConorFynes, March 5th, 2015

Accursed, deaf and blind are those who continue to deny the new wave of black metal! As I'm aware anyone with at least a cursory interest in Leviathan's latest opus needs no proselytizing in this regard, I will keep my comment on genre brief; isn't it amazing where black metal (specifically USBM) has gone in the past decade? Granted, there remain a cabal of acts who (successfully, or otherwise) still create art as if the scene had never extended a few city blocks beyond Helvete or Ross Bay Cemetery, but it's the sense that I can hear a black metal album today that may not have been possible to make even ten years ago that keeps me excited. Scar Sighted is one such record, an ambitious 'something old, something new' statement, the likes of which critics and genre-elitists tend to speak of as were it the stuff of legend. Indeed, the album would be well-deserving of praise from both. Wrest's latest monument is a swirling expression of negativity, channelling a life of misanthropy through an impressive frame of ambition and technical precision. I have no doubts about it; Scar Sighted is the first truly great black metal output of the year.

Falling back on my first point a bit, it is quite impressive how much Leviathan has evolved as years have passed. I remember being introduced to the work of Wrest in the late '00s (either with Tentacles of Whorror or his split with Xasthur- I'm unclear which) and hearing music revelling in its own misery and self-imposed limitations. Jef Whitehead's talent (and, even more importantly, his sincerity) were clear early on, but it didn't quite sound like Leviathan were distinguishing themselves from their atmospheric predecessors across the Atlantic, much less establishing a new and vital scene.

Fast-forward to Scar Sighted, and I am hearing a smorgasbord of modern techniques and inventiveness I've come to associate with the best in 'current' black metal, particularly in the United States. Atop Leviathan's longstanding depressive essence, I'm hearing the disharmonic experimentation of a band like Deathspell Omega, the oppressive toneshapes of Blut aus Nord, even some of the quasi-Wagnerian pomp of The Ruins of Beverast. I'm sure other listeners will draw their own varying comparisons; individual perspectives may point a certain technique as the innovation of one band or another, but no single influence is strong enough to say Wrest has reinvented his modern incarnation based on that of someone else. Yes, most of the tricks on Scar Sighted probably aren't original to the album or Leviathan specifically, but the way in which all of the pieces have fallen together is passionate and uncompromising. If ever you wanted to hear what ambitious (but not outlandish) black metal should sound like in 2015, this is your ticket.

The biggest initial indicator as to Scar Sighted's quality only occurred to me after I'd heard it at least once. From the first experience, each song felt fully-fleshed and distinct from the others; it was only after listening - when I took a look at the formal track listing - that I realized it was over an hour long. Regardless of era or genre, an album that manages to stay engaging and fresh for so long is an impressive feat, indicative of mastery and inspiration. This is arguably doubly so in black metal, which often limits itself to the malefic corner of human expression. There are no entirely unexpected turns on Scar Sighted, but Wrest keeps the music on its toes nonetheless. "The Smoke of Their Torment" is a howling murk of variety and weird Deathspellisms. Compare that to the 'death metal meets atmospheric black metal' "Dawn Vibration", the depressive "Wicked Fields of Calm", the despondent pace of Scar Sighted's dirge-like title track, or the ambient ruin its closer "Aphōnos". Wrest's inspirations may come in varying shades of darkness-- misanthropy, hatred (of others and self), human filth and biblical orthodoxy-- but with that limited range he's still managed to create the impression of an emotional roller coaster.

I also couldn't go without paying respects to the album's production, helmed by the legendary Billy Anderson, who delivered one of the best-sounding metal productions I've ever heard last year with Agalloch's The Serpent & the Sphere. Scar Sighted is a punishing, treacherous album, and while it remains thoughtfully mired at times in the lo-fi aesthetic, there's the unyielding sense that every note, every sonic frame has been attentively looked after. I think that, regardless what genre of music we're talking about, that's just as well a definition of a masterpiece as any other. Scar Sighted may very well be the most powerful thing Wrest has crafted, with Leviathan or otherwise. It is at once cathartic and challenging, and regardless whether your tastes veer towards the traditional or experimental, the depth and substance it offers boldly demands acknowledgement.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical

Accessibly Weird - 87%

flightoficarus86, March 3rd, 2015

I’m not quite part of the inner-circle when it comes to Wrest. People have recommended plenty Leviathan to me and I have always walked away fairly indifferent. Sure, I think he is talented, but he also just fails to fully engage me. However, I do feel that Scar Sighted has managed to take me at least a step further down the rabbit hole. Between the solid production, stellar atmosphere, and gritty guitar-work; Scar Sighted is a monster to be reckoned with.

It’s funny that I’m listening to a black metal album and the best comparison I can often make is Skinny Puppy. Sure, there are plenty of minor chords and tremolos with heavy distortion, but the overall aesthetic and use of samples just screams early 90’s industrial. Good thing Too Dark Park is one of my favorite albums. Aside from the general creepiness, I also dig the weird, bendy discordant guitar work and bipolar nature of the a-melodic and melodic. Songs like “Wicked Fields” display utter chaos and abandonment of convention, while others like “Within Thrall” are filled with Mayhem-like hooks straight out of early second wave.

These switches are known to happen within the same songs well. Consider the crushing opener, “The Smoke of Their Torment” or bipolar “Gardens of Corprolite,” which ends with a very moody, effects-laden guitar lead. Moments throughout the album remind me of everything from Cultes des Ghoules’ Henbane to Deathspell Omega and Lunar Aurora. Yet Wrest manages to drag these sounds violently into strangely accessible territories with earworm hooks and morbidly fascinating dirges. Despite the plethora of indiscernible, cavernous howls and bizarre song structures, it never felt so artsy as to detract from my enjoyment. In fact, the palpable sorrow is extremely personal.

Never predictable, surprisingly enjoyable, Scar Sighted is another album not to miss in 2015. The dense, progressive fabric and obsessively ordered madness sets the bar for aspiring black metallers ever higher as the genre continues to expand and evolve. But be forewarned, it’s going to take time to truly digest this. It’s kind of like watching a David Lynch film: you know it’s something profound, but it’s not something you could come back to every day. Thankfully, Wrest has just enough handle on convention to be perhaps a bit more inviting than Polanski.