Second To Sun
Leviathan

So here’s the thing – I’m going to come right out here and say that, in general, Black Metal isn’t really my favorite form of metal, let alone my strong suit.

I know! I know. There’s a chance that a certain faction of our audience have already disregarded anything else I have to say on the subject (or any subject) and are ready to submit what I’m sure is a well-crafted and not-at-all unhinged comment regarding my intelligence or possibly my sexual preferences – but hear me out! While Black Metal isn’t necessarily my general go-to subgenre, when I find a Black Metal or Blackened-(insert subgenre) band I do enjoy, it tends to hit REALLY hard. The first time I heard Bathory? Blown away. Hearing Storm of the Light’s Bane the first time? Instantly hooked. As soon as I heard Borknagar’s classic Empiricism, I went out and bought their entire catalog as quickly as I possibly could. And if you couldn’t tell by those three examples, I couldn’t possibly care less about how “trve-to-form” a black metal band is (I know this isn’t helping my case for those already prepared to crucify me), the point is simply that while I’m not naturally drawn to Black Metal, it’s rare that I find one I just kinda like – it’s almost always an all-in kind of thing.

When Russia’s Second to Sun dropped Legacy last year, they became the latest example of a black metal band I was 100%, without-a-doubt enamored with. Their more modern, robust take on the genre seeped its way into my veins with cold, evil intent and totally kicked my ass from start-to-finish. Without a doubt one of my top 10 best albums of 2019. So despite the fact that the band has released new, solid-as-stone material every year since 2017 (kind of a bonkers achievement if you think about it), I admit I was skeptical to hear they were ready to release a new album this year, hot off the heels of such an immense and monstrous release as Legacy. But man, credit where credit is due, these guys have kept the streak alive and delivered another example of brilliantly executed, unique, and widely-appealing black metal.

The formula for these dudes hasn’t changed much from Legacy to Leviathan – the band is still blasting away your ears with a lethal dose of crushing, bombastic Black Metal in a similar vein to the likes of Numenorean, in that the band is not even remotely afraid of high quality production values or injecting more modern elements into their sound ranging everywhere from the atmospheric tendencies of Violet Cold or Unrequited, to the more thick, heavy “core” elements of a band like Wolf King. There’s really a lot going on here, but the band does another admirable job of keeping everything cohesive and making sure nothing sounds too out-of-left-field. First track, “Eerie,” serves as a perfect example – a nearly 9 and a half minute track that starts with an unsettling, discordant guitar intro, before screaming in with a vicious blast beat, and goes on to switch up between ultra, heavy oppression – to neck-snapping, speedy fury, all the while picking and choosing it’s moments to inject a dose of creepy, spine-tingling synth overlays that give an added layer of atmosphere and space to the whole package and give the whole thing a real sense of scenery and presence. Yes, I know, that’s… a lot of words to describe a song, but again, THERE’S A LOT GOING ON HERE. But it all works really, REALLY well together.

When bands are throwing this much at your senses, it really comes down to special “moments” on an album to leave the biggest lasting impacts, and this album certainly has no shortage of them; At the 2:10 mark of “Psychoanalyze My Ghosts,” the band switches from a super catchy, Vreid-like “Sognametal”-esque passage, to a chugging riff layered with unearthly, ghostly synths that just really sounds fucking amazing, and is totally unique to this band. In a completely different but equally impressive moment on title track “Leviathan,” the band lays into an absolutely vicious blast section, before slowing back down with beautifully harmonized treble picking, more of those ethereal layers synths, and some super creative and effective drumming that makes for a truly awe-inspiring, dizzying listen.

It’s this kind of super-focused, uber-dedication to small details and little accents that really build to something greater than their parts and sets these dudes apart from the pack – it’s not just an album with some randomly placed songs – they’re creating an entire experience. That being said, while I want to give passages (tracks 6 and 7) “The Engraving of Gustave Dore” and “Black Death, Spirits, and Werewolves” the benefit of a doubt, I can’t for the life of me figure out why the former ends so abruptly, only to transition into ANOTHER completely different sounding and… sorta pointless 1:15 long passage. To it’s credit, I suppose it does serve as an alright intro to follow up “Leviathan,” but while the former provides an eerie little scene-setting break from the action, the two together just sorta takes the flow and momentum the album had built to that point and tosses it off a cliff for no apparent reason I can find. I dunno, I guess nobody’s perfect.

That head-scratcher aside, this album is another absolute beast from one of metal’s hardest-working, fastest-ascending bands, and should further cement them as one of Black Metal’s more unique and impressive young acts. Whether it’s the moodier, second-wave riffs of “Marsch der Wölfe” that suits your pleasure, or the more modern, forward-thinking closer “November” that gets you amped up, there’s plenty here to give any self-respecting metal fan something to get excited about. Given this result, I guess I can go ahead and pencil-in Second To Sun for another masterful, potential year-end-lister in 2021. These guys are on a hell of a run.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
September 30th, 2020

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