6/2/2006 - Review by: Etiam
Leviathan/Sapthuran - Leviathan/Sapthuran Split - 2006 - Battle Kommand Records
Sapthuran’s side of this split is a surprising success. Relatively unknown before this effort and formed only in 2003, he plays a fundamentally familiar strain of USBM “for the dark ages of the past... when the harsh and unforgiving forces of nature tested the will of men. Sapthuran is the howl of the lone wolf, the watchful eye of the raven perched atop the tree, and the fell voice of the past... carried through the seas of time by the winds,” as his homepage would have us know. This style of posturing often falls flat, as none of the grandiose claims come even close to being met by the music, but Sapthuran does not, by any means, simply blow hot air. In the recent years, dozens of identically oppressive and misanthropic one-man outfits have cropped up in poor imitation of the relatively famous Wrest and Malefic, with nary a distinguishing factor between them, so some skepticism was warranted here, at first.
Sapthuran, though, does boast unique facets. Black metal is often maligned for being childishly repetitive, but throughout Sapthuran’s side of this split a number of deviations from the standard minor-key tremolo riff appear. Using subtle folk influences to establish a medieval subtext, Sapthuran crafts a truly intelligent and seductive mixture of prudent acoustic melody to accent the expected black metal ‘standard’. Compared to earlier work, this is not only a superior production effort, but also more compelling; expect good things for the future from this band, who, at least for 20 minutes, almost stole Leviathan’s thunder.
Leviathan’s offerings, for the majority of black metal fans, will be the main draw to this split. And though Wrest does not disappoint, his tracks here are not quite what many would expect. After the acclaimed success of both his full-lengths, Wrest has become a ‘household name’ for black metal fans in short order. While his success is noteworthy, some claim that his style is derivative and overrated, and that his popularity is due to name-dropping and availability rather than exceptional talent.
In 2005, Wrest released a self-titled album from the project Lurker of Chalice, and though its distribution was severely limited, the impact was large, establishing him clearly as more than simply a lucky Xerox artist for most fans. The swelling ambience and reverb, combined with his distinctively ethereal melodies (which were but rarely seen in Leviathan) took the main stage. Perhaps partially due to that success, or more likely simply because of creative reasons, Wrest has pursued that path on this split a little more. Not to say that his four songs are more akin to Lurker of Chalice than they are to Leviathan, but it is true that more evolution, depth, and subtleties are evident in this work than previous ones. Not necessarily better, but obviously more progressive. Layering subtle rhythmic themes throughout, he gives the five songs he contributes a sense of unity not often felt on split albums. More experimentation is done between discordant leads (Odious Convulsions) and melodic ones (Crushing the Prolapsed…), and he continues to develop and integrate an almost rock ‘n’ roll styled riff and bass guitar approach are also worthy of mention, as ever.
Though the snare sound is distracting and too snappy under some circumstances (largely dependant on the stereo system one uses), and though his tracks may sound crude by comparison after the more somber Sapthuran, Wrest is making a bold statement with his recent transcendent work.
Neither side is to be missed.
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