Wednesday, August 03, 2005

While black metal will forever be associated with the criminal hijinks of Burzum amd Mayhem in the early 90s, the musical legacy they and their corpse-painted peers left has been amassing an international following in the last decade. I'm not going to get into the "sell out" Cradle of Filth black metal vs. true black metal debate because it's boring, and like any other genre-fied form of music, the majority of black metal produced is paint by numbers and uninspired, made even more ridiculous by the increasingly cartoonish visual element. But fuck all that, the music produced by the likes of Burzum, Mayhem and Emperor was often experimental, atmosphere-laden and deeply expressive in its use of melody and impassioned wails from the blackened depths. A pretty diverse palette to work with, and it's still proven fertile for many, probably the best of whom is Leviathan's Wrest.
Quietly building a name for himself since 1998, releasing numerous cd-rs and tapes out of, uh, San Francisco, Wrest is starting to get some attention in a big way, and he deserves it. With Leviathan, Wrest has proven himself not only a master of his musical form, with brutal hate-laced guitar riffs, impressive drumming, and a truly advanced sense of composition, but a master of sound itself, conjuring damaged lo-fi ambience seemingly at will. And the bass is good, too. While songs go through multiple sections, they're often linked and overlapped by his singular take on eerie noise. Like the best black metal, it seems to give you a peek into the bleak, scarred psychic terrain of the artist. Check out Tentacles of Whorror, Wolf Eyes and Hair Police would kill to sound this spooked, and if not kill, maybe just hit themselves over the head with a mace. Apparently he's put out a limited LP of ambient expanses called A Silhouette in Splinters and he's also got a new project called Lurker of Chalice, which is out now on Total Holocaust and soon to be re-reeleased by Southern Lord. Likely this one isn't black metal at all, as Wrest slows things down with some crushing doom riffs, while shoegaze-y washes of melody create a dark stasis. With increasingly ornate drum fills and the repeated use of depressed dialogue samples instead of Wrest's abrasive wails, Chalice's overall mood seems closest to a particularly damaged take on DJ Shadow's "Endtroducing...". Hell, it might even go over big with the Pitchfork crowd (don't say I didn't warn you). In fact, Wrest is pretty much guaranteed underground stardom, as he, with fellow San Franciscan Xasthur (aka Malefic) are prominently featured on the upcoming Sunn O))) album, Black 1. With the title and guests, I'm gonna venture a guess that black metal might be a theme.