Since I began this crazy music thing over a year ago there have been a few albums that have been on my list to write about but none have been higher than Leviathan’s Scar Sighted.
Leviathan: Scar Sighted (2015)
Scar Sighted was hands down my favorite album of the year 2015 and the main reason it hasn’t appeared sooner on here is due to the difficulty I have had obtaining it on vinyl. There is nothing that frustrates me more as a music fan than the exclusivity of some records and how distributors decide to print certain releases.
Tangentially, I wish all of these smaller artists would take money upfront from fans similarly to Patreon and other membership platforms for distribution purposes. Allow fans to support the release so when the backing numbers get high enough those who paid for the product can obtain a physical release outside of secondhand resell websites with ludicrously inflated prices. I’m sure it might not be as simple as that but as someone who is uneducated in this field I can’t help but give my two cents regardless.
Bottom line, I don’t buy CD’s and I don’t care for the compressed quality of digital downloads. I don’t listen to music flippantly by manner of playlists and prefer listening to an album, in full and in the sequenced ordering the artist or producer intended. Limited exclusives and the production numbers attached don’t mean anything to me just as long as I can listen to an album and have a tangible package to peruse and admire while doing so. As a fan of music I’m tired of exclusives and as a cynical armchair critic it doesn’t make me want to support the companies that distribute them. To me, they are the reason that the record industry is on the decline. Greedy, corporate garbage. I want to purchase my physical releases directly from the artists but first they need to be available so I can give them my damned money!
Scar Sighted has brilliantly designed artwork created by Wrest, who writes and performs all of the music. Visiting Leviathan’s bandcamp page under Profound Lore will link you to places to purchase his CD’s and offer support but sadly no vinyl the last I checked.
Those of you following this Halloween list might recognize that Wrest was also the creator and sole performer on Lurker Of Chalice. If that band was the audio equivalent of Lovecraft’s writing dictated through a slow moving, atmospheric, minimalist narrative than Leviathan is the Eldritch orgy that occurs when all cosmic hell breaks loose. It bombards the listener with an onslaught of multi-layered instruments solely intended to be as unsettling as possible while somehow retaining a semblance of musical structure. A passive ear may only hear abrasive noise at first but with some patience this album slowly begins to exhibit clarity. I say slowly because some dedication and revisiting may be required to make some sense of everything but once it does it all becomes quite coherent.
Each illustrated image within the album’s sleeve seemingly depicts some semblance of Lovecraftian horror by design and matches perfectly with the horrifically uneasy nature of the music. Most of the artwork appears to be cross-hatched with pen and ink almost entirely in monochromatic black and white with an occasional spattering of red ink to highlight certain features or elements in the images. They are beautifully terrifying on their own and perfectly reflect what is happening in the music as the instruments often blend together to create a wall of sound with occasional flourishes of tormented emotions. The prime example of this can be found on Within Thrall which contains large swathes of blind fury complimented by nearly jarring moments of beauty and even a choral chant that is as harmonized as a Beach Boy’s chorus. Moments like these are as startling as they are enthralling and there are speckles of them spattered throughout these ten songs over the course of just over an hour’s worth of music.
Billy Anderson’s production is another piece of the puzzle that really shouldn’t be overlooked. Wrest’s prior outings as Leviathan have all been great, if not a little muddled technically. This isn’t a slight against the earlier material as I enjoy most of those albums as well but Anderson brings a warmth and clarity on Scar Sighted not heard on any of those previous recordings. Everything is audible and clear while still retaining the dense foggy nature of traditional Black Metal. As someone who is a fan of the raw production of those classic bands, it is remarkable that I wasn’t instantly turned off by this all-around cleaner sound. On the contrary, i think it is an important feat that they were able to capture this so while while retaining that same sense of heaviness and I hope that Wrest continues in this fashion on his next project.
Where heavy music tends to become unappealingly mundane for me is in it’s failure to remain captivating for the entire duration of an album. A lot of bands tend to force themselves out of the gate at their fastest and most aggressive while never allowing a moment’s rest for composure on the listener’s end. It is the reason that so many Metal albums get tossed aside for me to never be explored again. Wrest’s biggest achievements in all of his projects are in the ways he keeps things fresh and interesting by diversifying the tempos in each song and by showing restraint when needed. The Smoke Of Their Torment and Dawn Vibration bludgeon the listener over the head after a short introductory piece but they contain interesting shifts both tonally and stylistically. The ending of the former ends in an atmospheric quasi-ambient jam coupled with a jazzy dream beat before the next wave of sonic torment begins.
What comes next are two songs that slow things down a few paces and to a crawl at moments with a pairing of tracks more akin to Lurker Of Chalice than Leviathan before things get ratcheted up again for the aforementioned Within Thrall. The entire album was seemingly conceived and constructed to be one larger narrative bigger than the sum of it’s parts. It is this attention to detail that music like this often doesn’t get credited enough for.
The title track and All Tongues Toward round out the latter half of the album nicely with the latter being one of the highlights that I personally look forward to with every listen. Aphonos bookends things nicely with a conclusion that feels very reminiscent to the opening instrumental track which encourages the listener to restart the journey over again, like a dream prematurely awoken from or a nightmare that will not end, Scar Sighted is a masterpiece of modern music created by one of the most underrated artists of this era.
Note: 2015 was a good year to be a fan of Lovecraft-inspired works with both Leviathan’s Scar Sighted and the amazing illustrations within as well as one of the best games of this decade, Bloodborne seeing release on the PS4. I encourage everyone who is a fan of this style of horror to check out the album art for Scar Sighted and to play Bloodborne.