Monday, 11 January 2010

Leviathan - Far Beyond The Light. 92/100.

It’s fair to say that sometimes I live up to my name and make some fairly perplexing judgments. As Billy psychotically stated in the hit teen horror flick of the 90’s, Scream, “we all go a little mad some times”. That certainly seems to be the case for me. On a number of occasions, bewilderingly, I have steered clear of certain bands because I either dislike their name, or have the wrong impression about their music based on something ridiculous like their song titles, or ludicrous image, but this time I’ve gone one step further and neglected a band simply because they share the name of another band with whom I’m largely indifferent to. Leviathan is the band in question and yes, I came to the “somewhat” odd conclusion that this band wouldn’t appeal to me primarily based upon the name of the band and its relation to Wrest’s project of the same name. For some reason, the fact that two bands could be completely different, but still share the same name never seemed to compute with me in my lost youth. Something didn’t seem right and that fact could never settle in my stomach like a filling warm meal on a cold night.

So, after many years of conditioning and force-fed therapy, I’ve stepped out of the circle of confusion, away from my quirky decision making of the past and taken a huge leap of faith towards the direction of this Swedish band named Leviathan and their only full-length, ‘Far Beyond The Light’. Although my initial opinions of this band, and indeed this record, were met with the frightening glances from the ugly façade of apprehension, all thoughts of negativity were washed down with a glass of this tasty beverage, one filled with a certain type of traditional hatred that once made black metal one of the most feared genres of music, forcing it to become an underground faction of lost souls and Satan worshipping youngsters. Although those stereotypes don’t describe me as a person at all, there is something stereotypical which draws me to Leviathan and that is feelings of melancholy on these long winter days and a hatred of mankind, one which has been steadily building for years, only for this record to unleash all of my feelings in one fell swoop.

Ever since the end of last year I have been gorging myself on Sir. A’s (now known as A. Petterson) projects. From the occult black rock of Lik, to the pulsating black metal of Armagedda, even stopping to take breath and branch out into the folk inspired grounds of Lönndom, he and his fellow band members have provided me with material to salivate other instead of indulging in the delights that Christmas brings to most. This Swedish brand of Leviathan are far superior to Wrest’s creation, though I am partial to his works from time-to-time (though more so in regards to Lurker of Chalice than Leviathan). Perhaps I shouldn’t compare the two since they play different forms of black metal. Whilst the American concept tends more to dabble in ambient textures, this branch deals more with the traditions of the genre by playing fast, tremolo based riffs with accompanying blast beats and strong shrieking vocals.

There are one or two ambient moments, where ‘Far Beyond The Light’ drifts away from its hateful concept that revolves around darkness and suffering, as on the instrumental song, ‘The End’, a less than fitting conclusion to the record but, generally speaking, the record remains in a perpetual state of fast paced material and venomous distortion akin to the olden days. Somehow, whilst pertaining to old age methods, Leviathan’s one and only opus, ‘Far Beyond The Light’, still manages to come across as unconventional, something which struck me as odd considering the foundations of this piece. Although I do often feel this is traditionally based, there are moments where Leviathan switch from old school to modern in a flash. Songs like ‘A Timeless Darkness’ are fine examples of this. From repetitive bass lines, drum work and guitar riffs, to an ambiance which draws out a new spectrum of emotional material. From subsiding hatred to overwhelming grief, the musicians manage to incorporate some flair into their unusually standard material (considering what Petterson performs with the black rock band Lik).

The brilliant thing about this record, above all other attributes, is the fact that it bridges the gap between the end of the second wave and the beginning of the modern era. When it came out, in 2002, the second wave’s death was still being mourned by a number of die-hard fans. So when bands like Leviathan showcase their talents at being able to sound traditional with a dash of creativity and a sprinkling of flair, it makes it easier for old school fans to become accustomed to the changes which are forcing themselves into the genre as the third wave tries to deal with the death of the second wave, it’s mentor. By using an all consuming hatred as the base for the work, with those bone crunching guitars and catchy drums, and fusing it with modern twists, Leviathan smartly set themselves up as one of the most accessible bands during the transition from the 90’s into the new century. If any record was deserving of the status as a “modern classic”, then this would be it.

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