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Album Review: Leviathan ‘Scar Sighted’
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Leviathan Scar Sighted Album Cover

Leviathan
Scar Sighted
CD | MP3
Profound Lore Records
Release date: March 3, 2015

I am probably the last person on the planet to offer up a review of the new Leviathan album Scar Sighted. This was by design. You see, I needed to spend some time with this record to convince myself that it was actually possible for this album to be even greater than the hurricane of hype that proceeded it. I wanted to make sure that my opinion wasn’t being influenced by the barrage of glowing reviews and the fact that it seemed everyone in the U.S. black metal scene and beyond were absolutely abuzz about its greatness. So, after I got a chance to sit down with the record upon it’s release back on March 3rd, I was left completely speechless and wondering if my love of Leviathan coupled with all of that anticipation was just causing a wave of momentary euphoria. So I decided to spend some quality time with Scar Sighted and judge its staying power after a few weeks and, boy, am I glad that I did.

For those unfamiliar with Leviathan, the band is actually a one-man project and that man is named Jef Whitehead who also goes by the pseudonym Wrest. For most of Leviathan’s career, Whitehead had remained a shadowy figure who actively refused the spotlight, choosing to let the music do the talking. In fact when Noisey sent a reporter out to try to interview him for a video feature about one-man black metal projects in 2012, they were told repeatedly that it would be impossible to track him down and that he would not speak with them even if they did. Noisey were persistent though and not only tracked Whitehead down, but got him to open up about his art and personal history as part of their very captivating series “Black Metal’s Unexplored Fringes – One Man Metal.”

It turned out that the man behind Wrest and Leviathan had a history as dark and complex as the music that he produced. Once a homeless teenage runaway, Whitehead found a home amongst the Bay Area skateboard community of the 1980s. His natural gifts as a graphic artist led him to create many iconic logos and images within the skating subculture and his likeness even graced the cover of the legendary 1989 NES videogame Skate or Die 2. He would eventually parlay his artistic gifts into a career as a highly sought after tattoo artist. It was this career path that saw him splitting time between his native Oakland and the hotbed of U.S. black metal Chicago.

Whitehead would take on the alter ego known as Wrest and starting in 1998 proceed to create a highly prolific output under the moniker of Leviathan. The quality of these numerous works varied widely from absolute ground breaking brilliance (The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide) to the ill-conceived and unfocused (True Traitor, True Whore). Wrest has proven himself to be an artist who wears his heart on his sleeve and 2011’s True Traitor, True Whore was born of an incident where a crazed former girlfriend accused Whitehead of a litany of crimes including rape and assault involving tattoo tools. Whitehead was eventually acquitted of all but one of the charges (he and virtually everyone privy to the situation maintain his full innocence) and sentenced to 2 years probation. Whitehead himself has declared True Traitor, True Whore to be awful and unlistenable. That’s a bit of an overstatement, but it certainly doesn’t rank with his best works.

In the three years that have passed since Wrest’s “coming out” via the Noisey interview, he has come to accept if not embrace the fact that fans are enthralled by the goings on in his life and has become highly more accessible. He has moved to Portland, Oregon and somewhat settled down with his new girlfriend Stevie. The two have an infant daughter together and Whitehead has gone so far as to grace a recent cover of Decibel Magazine holding the newest member of the Leviathan family.

Jef Whitehead Decibel Cover

Which may explain the renewed focus shown on Scar Sighted. It is an album that fires on all cylinders. There are no low points or lulls to speak of. But alas, do not make the mistake of thinking that Wrest has adopted the same contented demeanor on display by Whitehead in recent interviews. Any notion of that should be dispelled by the opening Salvo of “Every fucking thing that crawls… is gonna die!” Scar Sighted is still a brutal assault on the ears that condenses everything that has ever been great about Leviathan and really black metal as a whole into what I feel will be, years from now, looked upon as one of the very pillars of the USBM scene.

In short, as hyped as this record was, it exceeds all expectations! Jef Whitehead has delivered his magnum opus. Dense and frightening, Scar Sighted is like a dark, remote jungle enshrouded in fog. Not music for the faint of heart but well worth the ride. An extreme/black metal master work.

Rating 10 out of 10

Leviathan “Within Thrall” (audio)

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