Leviathan - Beholden to Nothing, Braver Since Then

Leviathan Beholden to Nothing, Braver Since Then cover
Beholden to Nothing, Braver Since Then
Stonefellowship Recordings
Leviathan make their second studio attempt after their reformation and release of a live album as well in 2010, since their disbanding back before the turn of the millennium. Ever since their “re-formation” the band still continuing with their last known “line-up” has pretty much maintained their quite artistic and unique style, well known for its intricate and unusual choices of orchestration that tend to make them sound rather thin and not very metal but more akin to prog rock, yet they are also too heavy to be called that so I guess they’re stuck in the prog middle... or mean!
They return with an album every bit as meandering and complex as you’d expect them to, with some 15 tracks clocking at about 70 minutes with 5 of them being instrumentals and one of them a 10 minute suite! Pff. Rather typical, wouldn’t you say!? Oh btw there is another one as tracks 6-12 form “Religion: superstition, imposed tradition and the spiritual crutch of human crux”. Yes try saying all that in one breath! Multiple times!
The fact is that their highly artistic and eclectic style, is so very unique that maybe it will make them quite hard to be appreciated by some people that seek some music for instant gratification and tend to be impressed, by rather superficial flashy displays of virtuosity. While Leviathan are without say masterful players of their instruments, they seem to play for the songs and not to impress and that might make some prog freaks, freak out.
The album sets out with the intro “Ephemeral Cathexis” which features, some very passionate speech about the human nature…
“A Shepherd’s Work” is very typically “Leviathan” and Jeff Ward is really shining, singing those lines. The band, as always has this thin but quite engaging sound, that’s quite clear and allows for a lot of musical phrasing to go on and be very audible at the same time, very easily. The production is not bad, but maybe I suppose they could have attempted once a slightly fuller sound... I suppose, just for a change... The song ends with a conclusion: “Arrogance might not be a uniquely American trait, but I must say you do it better than anyone”! Deep!
“Intrinsic Contentment” begins with an almost “dance” beat, so to speak that makes it quite playful and it goes around with some very lyrical verses and a very fetching chorus as well.
“Overture of Exasperation” is a piano and violin instrumental, which works more or less as a musical interlude and is a pretty piece of music, it’s not very long obviously... towards the end there’s also some percussion to make it more dramatic.
“Creatures of Habit” is a rather long winded number that seems to break up in two sections with some long instrumental breaks between them that seem to have sort of “solos”, adlibs, “spoken parts” and various other effects in there... it’s a strong number with a serious tone, but maybe it could have been a bit more successful in what it tries to convey. I just think, it felt a bit too “confusing”…
Time for “Religion: superstition, imposed tradition and the spiritual crutch of human crux” which consists of: “Solitude Begets Ignorance” an instrumental intro that in short, claims that humankind is the only species that claims to believe in a God that acts like it doesn’t have on, over some soft music, over to the rather dramatic “A Testament for Non-Believers” with it’s very symphonic tendencies, with violins all over the place and Ward really putting in a very passionate performance. The pronounced percussion also tends to underline the somewhat more elevated, more dramatic nature of this piece. However past the third minute things, cool down and become very tranquil and serene... and really beautiful. After all, it’s this band that gave us “Passion above all else, isn’t it?
Still part of the same suite “If the Devil Doesn’t Exist...” clocking at a mighty nine minutes might one of the weirdest “songs” on the album... it begins with a few minutes of “sinners” penal suffering in hellfire, then turns riffy and then tranquil (maybe going through purgatory, who knows) to only get a vocal break midway! It’s very “passionate” and features again a violin in the background, playing a very genial melody. Without doubt a highlight.
“Magical Pills Provided” is a quite long winded instrumental running at about seven minutes, with violins and all, that’s got its nice themes and all initially, then goes for a weird “mushroomy” middle section with weird voices and sort of underwater effects and then resurfaces all guitar blazing and soloing during the last minute with the original themes to save the day, I suppose, not bad, maybe it could have been a little shorter… it ends with the proclamation: “We have killer God”...
“Thumbing Your Nose at Those Who Oppose” is a very evocative and lyrical number that manages to both sound very sweet, in the delivery department, but also has a very prog/eastern flavored break that’s “right on the money”, before it just decides to “cool down the engines” completely and chillax, during the last minute…
“Empty Vessel of Faith” is another seven plus minutes instrumental, which I suppose could have been avoided (all these instrumentals are not really doing miracles for the flow, but... OK) with some nice themes, but rather weird, sound quality as all the instruments sound “blanketed” and some weird pianos, noises and other stuff, seem to take over precedence over them... mixwise... weird one that.
“Words Borrowed Wings” is the final part of this long winded suite and is all about the battle between science and religion. Again there’s a ton of violins and heavy percussion, this is a number rich is shades of drama.
And since there weren’t enough instrumental in the album, Leviathan decide to do another one with “Bettering Darklighter”... hehe, in all reality, their “instrumentals” on this album are not necessarily purely instrumentals, they could be arbitrary noises, film quotes… whatever… but still, they’re not songs...
“Misanthrope Exhumed” is a rather dark and gloomy number, with that “sound blanketing” issue, returning up to a point, maybe it’s intentionally, done to create a “post-morbid” atmosphere...  it’s sort of bittersweet sounding one...
Last but not least the second suite of the album and final song on it, the eponymous song “Beholden to Nothing, Braver Since Then” a ten plus minute, that in its melodic tentacles manages to encompass most of the facets and aspects of the album.
Overall, the album will please all longtime Leviathan fans, as the band stays true to its sound and style and remains focused to its vision and artistic endeavor. This is real music, by people set out to create, art. It’s not the latest “Assterpiece” by “whatever band”, X mag, will tell you is the best thing since sliced bread because some big companies pay them a full page ad. Thank God. Because with so many masterpieces last year, I didn’t know if it was 2013 or 1983!
Head over to www.leviathanresurrected.com and get this from the band direct, as I have no idea, if they really have international distribution deals setup.