Leviathan - Words Waging War

Leviathan Words Waging War cover
Words Waging War
Stonefellowship Recordings
There’s an endearing quality to a band like Leviathan with the sole stalwart remaining from their early days being multi-talented instrumentalist John Lutzow (guitars, keys and some vocals). They did debut in the early 90s with an EP and a trio of strong studio album offerings, performing a highly sophisticated and idiosyncratic style of prog metal, not unlike JA era Fates Warning, but probably a little quirkier but at the same time more refined in places, with a maturity Fates wouldn’t reach until later in their career and probably a few “pleasant” shades darker. The band despite receiving strong reviews did go their separate ways towards the end of the nineties, probably frustrated with the musical climate and the fact that success always seemed to elude them, only to return about a decade later, after key players met and managed to lure everyone in for a reunion, that yielded a live album and a new album. Since then the band has released another two albums and despite facing some pretty important lineup changes that left only John and Derek from the “old guard” – the musicians the band has taken in to make up the numbers seem able to channel their performances in such a way that leaves the overall sound and aesthetics of the band, rather intact. Brazilian vocalist Raphael Gazal, as well as Kyle Brian Abbott, who has to succeed one mercenary Mark Zonder on drums, turn in some pretty cool performances indeed.
The overall mood in this new album is as dark and ponderous as ever, with the band churning the sort of intellectually challenging prog metal they always did – in the way Queensryche and Fates did, but showing a lot more resilience to change, if the band has matured in a way – that’s been by managing to keep things more focused, but complex enough to satisfy their longtime fans, who are probably among the few that will dig this.
“Compromised by Need” feels like something stolen from the archives of early Fates and that’s not bad… it’s odd times don’t manage to bog it down and despite its meandering vocal lines, the flourishing vocals on the chorus, as well as well as the instrumental parts that seem to want to remain quite discreet from one another, as much as they can – take you back to a time long gone, but not entirely forgotten, at least by some and probably quite beloved by many of them. Also the lyrics about how people have to survive in the face of difficulties and unfairness and struggle and often lose, due to their lives being compromised by needless greed.
“Ambitious Stones Overturned” is a more melodic piece with a grungier riff and again sound and vocal aesthetics that may sound a little dated today, but would have been the shitz in the early 90s. Fans of the more hard rock oriented and sounding early dream theater sound, psy waltz and the transitional albums of many 80s prog bands will probably dig this.
“Who I’m supposed to Be” tries to be as straightforward as it can be and despite some pretty good ideas, it doesn’t manage to avoid becoming monotonous, with the solo section in a way, giving it a clean break. The existential pondering is rather interesting – if not a little futile in this rather vain and plain existence we lead where if a god didn’t exist, we’d have to invent one, or maybe we did.
“Someone Else’s Art” has a gruffer vocal, almost Mustainey in sourness, but thankfully not in timbre. It’s a little weird, but once you get its hook, it manages to keep you fairly interested. Production wise, things could probably be a little more interesting, but I guess the aesthetic comes with the territory and it’s unlikely that the band will change their approach this late in the game.
“Picture Perfect” is in contrast more hard/artsy rock – much mellower and underscored by the occasional acoustic guitar here in there… but while the song is enjoyable, what really manages to lift it off, is the very inspired and whirlwind like solo work that manages to weave itself in and out of the verses by climaxing over them, without overshadowing their contributions to the song.
“Strength and Limitations” is a contemplation on humankind and it dives into the deeper prog murkiness once again – that the band seems comfortable to dwell in. Thick vocal lines antagonize the equally thick percussion with the guitar managing to weave enough melody throughout in a way rather reminiscent of Warlord’s Bill Tsamis and his tasteful fretwork in places. But things go more quirky than epic elsewhere.
“This Order of Things” is a bizarre beat laden spoken part that sounds rather comradeish… oooer missus T.
“Ten to the Twelfth” manages to be more superficial and although it doesn’t last long, bored me, quite quickly.
The title track is abbreviated as “WWW” and it manages to return things to the mid-pace – that’s characteristic of a lot of the songs on the album. While it manages to score an interesting introduction and opening verses, things get rather disappointing in the lead up to the solos, which are not exactly the most memorable either and the song comes full circle in a rather disappointing way. It’s funny how it also mirrors in its abbreviated for the world-wide-web, a place that instead of a frontier for free speech has become an arena where hate reigns supreme and words, wage war, so to speak.
“Blood and Imagination” in essence encapsulates a simpler song – in a more complex arrangement than in should and manages to waste a nice solo and chorus along with other parts, that don’t exactly sound as cohesive as they could. Which is sad since the bass grove is quite ace and I guess things could have turned out a little better than they have, here.
“Projecting Feelings” actually manages to get down the rhythmical portion of things well – with even the vocals layered nicely all over in a way that’s most(ly) satisfying. The soloing, well the noodles at first are boring, with some substance arriving during the second serving… a little editing here, might have gone a long way.
“Cast A Long Shadow” is a minor heavy melodic song, which I wouldn’t exactly call a ballad, but an elegy of a song… and  along with the final song or for better musically accompanied spoken word piece “A Legacy Not Yet Defined” are supposed to be capsules of knowledge – musical letters from John to his young son Levi.
“Words Waging War” finds Leviathan producing music as challenging and convoluted as ever and props to them for keeping it like that.
In a world where the mention of the band’s name will most likely quicken responses about Mastodont’s album by that name, there’s not much to hope for, but if you enjoy your music quirky, meandering, dark and ponderous (think Rush, early Fates, early Theater, Psy Waltz, Megadeth) you might want to dip a toe into the old school prog depths, where Leviathan lurks. You might end up enjoying the experience…