|Artwork by Wrest|
What can be said that has not been said before when it comes to Jef Whitehead’s one man Black Metal band Leviathan? There is no doubt he is one the best the US has to offer in Black Metal and over time has established himself as consistent and productive as any of his contemporaries in the US or abroad. The release of Scar Sighted is no exception. The album shows once again why his music is so beloved.
This is the first full length since 2011's True Traitor, True Whore. Much in his life has changed since that album and all of it positive. The stories surrounding the time True Traitor was being recorded are well documented and not worth repeating here. Since then Jef has sobered up, found companionship and love in not only his new relationship with Stevie Floyd (Dark Castle/Taurus) but also their daughter Grail (who accompanied her father on the cover of the march issue of Decibel). Have no fear, these positive changes have not turned his music into something romantic and sappy. Far from it in fact. What it has done is refocus his vision for Leviathan. While many found True Traitor to be a bit of a misstep. Scar Sighted finds him starting right where 2008’s masterpiece Massive Conspiracy Against All Life left off.
All the trademarks of Leviathan are contained within. Obscure movie clips. Twisting guitar lines. Tortured vocals. Driving drums. Atmospheres that are both beautiful and sinister all at the same time. There are the barnburners like "Dawn Vibration". And then there are the almost Funeral Doomish songs like the title track. This really does feel like it has bits of everything his discography has to offer while still feeling fresh and forward thinking. There are even times one is reminded of his much revered (especially by me) side project and album Lurker of Chalice. The layers contained within each song beg for repeated listens. With each one you hear something new. I for one am a sucker for using movie clips in albums and Jef does it as good as anyone. The first words heard in the album are of a man saying, “Every fuckin’ thing that crawls, is gonna pay.” before exploding into a Blackened abyss. The final words uttered at the end of the hauntingly atmospheric song Aphōnos, come from a woman saying, “I want to see it in your face. I want to see it in your eyes. I want to see it in your tears.” Just reading those two quotes alone it gives you a pretty good idea of what awaits the listener.
Leviathan is on a small list of bands that after I’ve listened to their albums I feel spent. As though my entire being has gone through something. The atmospheres created by the music are so all encompassing that you begin to feel claustrophobic at times. Other times the song seem to be pulling things out of my emotionally, sometimes feelings I didn’t even know existed in me. Artists like this remind me why I love music and the power it can have over it’s listener.
The phrase “triumphant return” has been used for many an artist. But this is a fitting phrase to use for this album. While True Traitor may have been a bump in the road for some, Scar Sighted has solidified all that people love about Leviathan. It is an album that stacks up very well to his massive discography and perhaps even outshines a few. Triumphant return indeed.