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Leviathan — The Tenth Sub Level Of Suicide

Leviathan — The Tenth Sub Level Of Suicide

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Limited Reissue on Grey/Black Splatter color vinyl. Gatefold Pressed in 2018.
The first half of the 00’s saw the rise of a plethora of unknown individuals who were among the first to use the pros of digital recording/publishing and released their material through streaming platforms, Youtube included, and were part of a niche that existed almost exclusively as an Internet phenomenon that was responsible of bringing the kind of creativity that was starting to get aborted in mainstream Black Metal. Though sometimes recognized as such and more often seen as a separate act hardly related to many contemporary Extreme Metal niches, USA’s Leviathan was among the names that earned the most through this kind of self-promotion and distribution. The longtime solo project of tattoo artist Jef Stuart Whitehead, it managed to release a good chunk of demos/studio albums before stopping for external reasons, returning years later with hampered activity.

2003’s The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide is quite an anomalous album, if seen as part of the Depressive Black Metal niche. Pretty much like the homonymous project in Sweden that released Far Beyond the Light and Armagedda, this is a brand of D-tuned Black Metal that features way more fast blast-beats and slurred tremolo guitars than the average, slower releases of the niche. Like Xasthur, Leviathan employs screechy, non-muted minor-key or diminished/dissonant arpeggios and sick harmonies, but Whitehead uses also more stop-start dynamics, faster tertiary rhythms (drums are Whitehead’s first instrument), tempo changes, less single-riff minimalism and way more feral, distorted and falsetto-oriented acid shrieking vocals.

“Sardoniscorn” features extremely repetitive E/F/E-flat minor arpeggios all too long used, re-used, abused and re-written to death by “Orthodox” acts like Ondskapt, Watain, Burzum, Mayhem and the like, "Scenic Solitude and Leprosy" alternates Death Metal sloppy blasts and more desperate-oriented acute chording, “He Whom Shadows Move Towards” gets slightly more interesting in its second half, when minor-seventh chords and the bass harmonize together, creating more inspired esoteric chord progressions that feel more liberating and outer-tending than life-draining. The second half gets progressively more esoteric and fright-themed, particularly “The Idiot Sun”, whose C/G-minor open-chord arpeggio licks, semitone bassline and slow, unchanging groove are the closest-related to actual Depressive Black Metal. At 15 minutes, the final title track achieves the widest dynamics, and ends an album that, as much scary and venomous it may sound, reveals also Whitehead’s trouble in keeping up the momentum on his albums, especially for 70-minutes releases like this one.

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