LEVIATHAN - CanĎt be Seen by Looking: Blurring the Lines, Clouding the Truth

Leviathan - CanĎt be Seen by Looking: Blurring the Lines, Clouding the Truth

6 songs
53:40 minutes
***** ****


I remember back in the mid-Nineties when I discovered that a record label from Luxembourg, the long defunct Rock The Nation, was releasing quality metal music from American metal bands. One of these bands was Leviathan, whose debut album Deepest Secrets Beneath made it as cassette tape to me. Leviathanís next album Riddles, Questions, Poetry & Outrage was released on the much bigger label Century Media, with whom they soon had creative differences, so that their third album Scoring The Chapters was a self-released record, and then the band broke apart. A few years later, they came back together, even if the comeback album At Long Last, Progress Stopped To Follow only came out fourteen years after its predecessor, this time on the bandís own label. Since then, Leviathan stayed DIY, with a fifth album Beholden to Nothing, Braver Since Then released in 2014 and now at last their sixth longplayer Can't Be Seen by Looking: Blurring the Lines, Clouding the Truth.

These guys donít only have a thing for long album titles, but also for long songs. The new album contains only six tracks, but still makes it over fifty minutes. From a line-up point of view, there are no original members left, although main songwriter John Lutzow has been playing on all albums so far. Bass player Derek Blake has also played on most albums of the band. Vocalist Rafael Gazal is from Brazil and new to the line-up. Most prominent player this time is drum legend Mark Zonder who used to be for a long time in prog metal pioneers Fates Warning.

Which brings us to Leviathanís new album that is a truly ambitious endeavour. Their early material was already very good, but they may not yet have found their identity yet. This has all changed on CanĎt be Seen by Looking: Blurring the Lines, Clouding the Truth. Of course there are parallels to early progressive power metal bands, with Sanctuary, Vicious Rumors, Riot and the aforementioned Fates Warning coming to life. And yet this may only be because all of these bands have started a long time ago and probably share the same influences. What makes Leviathan different is that they are an outspoken political band that uses a lot of spoken word samples to pepper their songs into a more provocative direction. This is something usually done by hardcore, post rock and hip hop artists, as most metal bands nowadays are too timid or maybe even not interested enough to add a message to their music. Not so Leviathan, whose new album is dedicated to the middle class, the 99% that have been abandoned by current politics. At times this feels as if Chumbawamba had decided to become a metal band.

Politics alone of course is not enough to make an album interesting. The music has to work too, and that is certainly not a problem for this Colorado based progressive metal band. The opener Life Beyond Meaning is a generous twelve-and-a-half-minute cut of prime prog rock, full of twists and turns, and the mandatory political speeches. The musicians are beyond reproach and the new vocalist does a tremendously great job, reminding me somewhat of Andre Matos (ex-Angra). The following Mercy Kill Liberty is at five minutes the albumís shortest track, and also the most immediately accessible song, although there are still some strange elements, like the cranky synthesizer sounds that can be heard accompanying the melody. The first half ends with the nine-minute-long Properly Channeled Rage, which is also an incredibly varied prog metal track with a really memorable chorus.

The second half of the album canít quite maintain the level of the first one but also has its moments. The Struggle To Be Seen As Human sees the band at its most experimental, with a rather groovy beginning. Turning Lost Boys Into Found Men feels a little like a folk ballad gone metal, and then the album ends with the thirteen minute behemoth Lies Are The New Normal (No Lesser Of Evil) which also has a great chorus but feels eventually a little too long.

The only criticism I have is that the production seems to be a little on the thin side. Maybe thatís because we have been used to fat and powerful sounding metal albums that leave no space blank, so that a more modestly recorded album seems to be lacking punch. But once you get used to Leviathanís sound and turn it up maybe a little louder than you would usually listen to metal music, you will soon forget that it doesnít have the highly polished sound of bands with higher budgets. In the end, itís the music that counts, and there you will hardly find any better progressive metal band at the moments. In times where Trump is degrading Western democratic principles, itís important to have a band like Leviathan that not only plays great music, but comes with the right message too.

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