Massive Conspiracy Against All Life
posted on 3/2008 By:
You know, I find the talk I hear sometimes about the lack of legitimacy and creativity in the current black metal scene (particularly in the U.S.) totally bewildering. In the last decade or so we’ve seen bands from all corners of the world releasing groundbreaking albums that have advanced the black metal sound, while still maintaining that indefinable raw spirit so essential to the genre. In last several years alone, I have been blown away by the sweeping epics of Wolves In The Throne Room and Drudkh, the terrifying maelstrom of fury that is Deathspell Omega, the deep spiritual musings of Negura Bunget, the complex melodic orchestrations of Taake…the list goes on. It really is a great time to be into black metal, folks.
And yet for me, there is one band that represents black metal’s continued steps forward in quality and innovation better than anyone. That band is Leviathan. Few bands I’ve encountered in my life have inspired such a rabid adoration and desire to hear every last bit of their material more than this band has. I’ve heard every full-length and EP, every split, and almost every demo by Leviathan, and of all the material I’ve heard from each stage of Wrest’s career, only a small portion of it even flirts with low quality. Every aspect of this band’s now-patented sound is so compelling and well executed; the complex and melodic riffs, the intricate drum and bass patterns, the eerily melodic keyboards and ambient interludes that fade in and out of the mix like haunting apparitions. And lets not forget the sheer ghastliness of the growls, shrieks, and wails that constitute the vocals, which are easily some of the most evil-sounding you could find in a black metal album. But like all good black metal, it is the overall atmosphere that Leviathan’s music creates that makes is so ultimately engaging and rewarding. Indeed, the project’s influence on the modern black metal scene have been profound, with many of today’s top-tier bands (Deathspell, Blut Aus Nord) taking obvious inspiration from Wrest’s bleak and atmospheric soundscapes.
So yeah, I consider this band to be one of the greatest black metal bands of all time, and as such I’ve been waiting out the numerous delays and conflicts affecting the release of Massive Conspiracy Against All Life with fervent impatience and ever-increasing desire. Thankfully, it was well worth the wait. This album, like both full-lengths before it, is damned incredible.
With that said, I will say that Massive Conspiracy threw me off a little at first. Its more riff-based and somewhat more compact than either of the last two albums and that kind of disappointed me when I first started listening. While still clocking in at over an hour, it feels like Wrest was intent on keeping things lean and neat this time, with only seven songs and no separate ambient tracks. Thing is, I never bought into some people’s opinions that the previous albums were bloated in length; all of the songs were interesting and different and served a greater purpose to the work as a whole. On this album, Wrest focuses more on covering all the bases of his trademark style in every track as opposed to giving each song its own distinct role (not unlike the move Deathspell Omega made from its first to second full-lengths). This very well may be preferential to many of you who grew impatient with the lengthiness of the last two LP’s, although I think I prefer how those albums were structured in the long run. Regardless, what’s ultimately important is the songwriting, and Massive Conspiracy Against All Life delivers in spades in that regard.
Once visceral lead song “Vesture Dipped In The Blood Of Morning” gets going, many listeners may immediately note similarities to Deathspell Omega’s recent work. The intense blast beats (faster than most of the drumming in Leviathan’s previous outings), dissonant riffs, and chaotic atmosphere definitely draw comparisons to the French luminaries. But further listening will confirm that this is still most certainly a Leviathan record. Wrest has always been such a talented and creative songwriter and has lost none of that ability in the four years since Tentacles of Whorror. While the riffs are of uniformly high quality and the vocals are among the best the genre has to offer, it’s really the little touches that let Leviathan apart. There’s a lot of smaller things going on lower in the mix--a backing vocal here, a subtle keyboard flourish there-- that may go unnoticed at first, only to reveal themselves upon further listening. The effort put into the songwriting is at a degree that most black metal bands can’t claim, and I can’t stress enough how well written and deep these songs are. The deftness at which Wrest switches from buzzing black metal fury (“Vesture Dipped In the Blood”) to more subdued melodies (“VI-XI-VI”) to murky ambient pieces (“Noisome Ash Crown”), and the skill with which he composes it all, is at a level far above all but a few of his contemporaries. Honestly, I can’t really convey the scope of this album that accurately in words because it is so detailed, diverse, and progressive that it would be impossible to describe it to its real justification. Each and every riff, every vocal, just seems to seethe with the kind of demented energy that only Leviathan can produce. You really have to listen on your own to grasp the genius of these songs.
When taking into account the very high level of Wrest’s musicianship in all instruments, and without a doubt the best production job Leviathan has had to date, Massive Conspiracy Against All Life is a strong candidate for the band‘s greatest release. I think that honor will still ultimately go to Tentacles of Whorror though, for while all of the material contained here is nothing short of top-notch, it doesn’t quite reach the genuinely disturbing and deranged atmosphere created so masterfully throughout Tentacles. Perhaps its due to the new albums's slightly increased emphasis on individual riffs/songs and less on crafting one long soundscape, or the slightly decreased use of the ominous keyboards melodies that I always thought added so much to the atmosphere of previous works. Regardless, as both a fan and a reviewer, I have to give this LP my highest recommendations. It should delight existing fans and is arguably the ideal starting place for newbies as well. If this really is the last Leviathan release, then congratulations to Wrest for ending this great project on such a brilliant note.
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