In 2003, the now iconic one-man ambient black metal project Leviathan released a debut album titled The Tenth Sub Level of Suicide. Little did Wrest, founder of said band, know that this release would go on to become a landmark influence for its subgenre. The debut helped propel a rather notable career for the project. And now, a compilation of unreleased demo tracks taken from the album's era is being unveiled physically through the label Ascension Monuments Media. How does the material hold up? Let's find out.
This demo collection, named The First Sublevel of Suicide, is a release consisting of five long tracks. The compilation clocks in at roughly forty minutes of content, with each song providing a composition filled with dark atmosphere, assertive instrumentals, shoddy production quality and many other things you'd find in a release of this calibre. As mentioned before, the compilation is comprised of demo or early versions of several tracks that can be found on Leviathan's debut album.
The strongest aspect of this compilation is arguably the dark and brooding atmosphere and overtones. This release is consistent with the ambiance at all times, with the low-fi production elements giving way to the foreboding feel even more so. The emotional side of the brief vocals and background shrieking helps to create the full black metal ambient package. Another notable positive aspect exists within the strong instrumentals, which consist of blaring guitar riffs coupled with pretty consistent drumming, all courtesy of Wrest himself. Also, the decision to keep the kvlt-like production is a plus in this case as well.
Obviously these are very old songs, but there are still a few little nitpicks to name here. Firstly, there could've been a little bit more variety with the guitar parts. Mostly tremolo picking is audible, which is good for the consistency, but could've also been fleshed out more. Another con is the lack of actual vocals aside from momentary shrieking or background wails/chanting. Now, it is clear that, since this is an ambient album, the focus is on ambiance and instrumentals. However, the vocal nitpick is just a personal preference in this case.
In all, the demo compilation presented to us here is a worthy throwback for fans. Those obsessed with the low-fi and atmospheric portions of the black metal subculture will be amused and pleasantly surprised by this release. Even for a demo, it all sounds pretty competent especially for its genre...and the chaotic mixture that is present here is always welcome.
Fave Tracks: "The Bitter Emblem of Dissolve", "He Whom Shadows Move Toward"
**This release is available now on Bandcamp!**
Review by: Dave Raffy
-Musician, reviewer, fan & promoter
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