Leviathan – True Traitor, True Whore (Profound Lore, 2011)

Utterly embarrassed as I am to admit it, I’m no stranger to bouts of misogyny.  Prior to meeting my phenomenal wife, my romantic dealings with the opposite sex were, to put it mildly, less than stellar (I’m sure this surprises no one).  From my first “real” girlfriend breaking my heart over a decade ago, to the woman I let repeatedly grind my soul to dust my senior year of college, to countless instances of rejection and other assorted shittiness that would take ages to properly recount, I had been left with a bad taste in my mouth and a fuckload of bitterness before a raven-haired goddess rescued me from the rut I was in.  As a result, I treated the few women that dared to try to get close to me like complete shit (this was totally undeserved and my petty way of getting back at the fairer sex as a whole, I reckon) and was generally distrustful and disrespectful towards any woman who wasn’t a blood relative or counted among my inner circle.

I guess that’s why a tiny part of me still identifies with Leviathan’s True Traitor, True Whore on some ugly level.  Granted, I never had it as bad as Leviathan mastermind Jef Whitehead (aka Wrest); the accusations levelled against him have been re-hashed ad nauseam at this point, so I see no point in doing so here.  Even though there are no printed lyrics to be found for True Traitor, True Whore (henceforth referred to as TTTW), the album’s title, along with song titles such as “Every Orifice Yawning Her Price” and “Her Circle is the Noose” are pretty loud and clear as to what the album is about.  The “women done me wrong” theme is practically as old as art itself; its roots in American popular music can be traced back to the blues and probably even further to folk and roots music.  It springs from the concept of the woman as temptress/succubus/betrayer/etc that can be found in any number of ancient myths, legends and folklore (hello Adam & Eve).  All men know in their heart of hearts that not all women are bad, but nevertheless, this theme makes for compelling art due to its universality.

While there is plenty of scorn and bitterness threatening to bubble up and spill over the sides of these songs, there is also a distinct feeling of desperation that courses through TTTW.  Some have speculated that this is due to Wrest’s concern that the album would be the last recording he would have the opportunity  to make if found guilty of the accusations (I don’t recall if he confirmed this in interviews); there is a rough-hewn, hasty quality to TTTW that’s a far cry from the sprawling, lo-fi epics that were Leviathan’s previous full length outings.  Wrest seems to be saying, “I don’t know how I got myself into this fucked up situation or if I will be able to dig myself out of it, but I’m going to do whatever I can to exorcise these demons on my back or die trying before the hammer drops,” as opposed to the usual “I fucking hate this bitch and now I’m going to mutilate the living shit out of her and skullfuck the corpse” tomfoolery that typifies extreme metal’s take on “women done me wrong.”  Then again, given the lack of access to lyrics, he could very well be singing about violating the occular orifices of the dead; the beauty of TTTW’s mystery is that it leaves the album wide open for interpretation, informed by our individual perpsectives and experiences.

Musically, TTTW is all over the place (another sign of that aforementioned desperation?); the album takes black metal, dark ambient, a little gothic rock and a little noise and coats it all in Sanford Parker’s thick yet spacious production scheme.  Songs flow seamlessly into one another, which suggests some kind of coherent narrative, perhaps mirroring Wrest’s descent into relationship hell.  In many ways, TTTW recalls Wrest’s side project (and arguably his finest recorded moment) Lurker of Chalice more so than previous albums under the Leviathan moniker; the swirling, gauzy ambience which permeated that album to the core also appears here, engulfing the listener in something that isn’t exactly black metal, but is nonetheless horrifically black.  TTTW doesn’t sound anywhere near as fully realized as Lurker of Chalice, but perhaps that’s part of its appeal; Wrest applies his tonal pallette with the reckless abandon of a Jackson Pollock painting, creating something that is both familiar and alien.  The skeletal feeling of the recording makes perfect sense when one considers that the potentially life-altering fallout from the events that directly inspired it are as yet unresolved (at least to my knowledge).  How can a piece of art so obviously informed by real life truly feel complete when its inspiration has yet to reach its coda?

What might ultimately be the most interesting aspect of TTTW is the way that some within the metal community immediately denounced the album for its supposed subject matter and demonized Wrest without knowing the facts.  The very idea that an artist would be criticized for allowing real life experiences to drive their art is absurd; perhaps those pointing the finger at Leviathan would do well to stick to mindlessly rocking out to Rhapsody’s frilly shirt anthems of unicorns with cupcakes and rainbows flying out of their asses, or whatever the fuck it is they sing about.  As Glenn Danzig once sang, “This ain’t no fantasy.”  As for the internet warriors ready to brand Wrest a rapist/batterer and string him up as such, two things: one, there are these fundamental concepts of the American judicial system called due process and presumption of innocence that you should probably familiarize yourselves with before you go running off at the mouth; and two, I better not catch any of you listening to Burzum, Emperor or Dissection.

True Traitor, True Whore might not be the definitive Leviathan statement (that would probably be 2004′s Tentacles of Whorror), but it is an evocative snapshot of a man on trial for his life; “women done me wrong” taken to its illogical conclusion.  It taps into the uncomforable emotions that all of us, both men and women, have experienced in the face of relationships turned to filthy black shit and pushes them over the edge, past the point of no return.  This is not an exit.

http://profoundlorerecords.com/

7 thoughts on “Leviathan – True Traitor, True Whore (Profound Lore, 2011)

  1. Nice review. I have yet to listen to this album, but I have read a lot of reviews of it, and find it endlessly fascinating.

    I noticed that a lot of commenters (other than the “presumed guilty” morons) have questioned the wisdom of releasing something like this considering the charges leveled against him. At one point I started drafting an article explaining why it probably would not be entered into evidence, but then I started going off on exceptions and the fact it could be included in sentencing (if found guilty, of course), but the article was just getting too convoluted. . . . It looks like I’ve saved the incomplete draft. I wonder if I should bother to finish it.

  2. For someone who looks like an anorexic Elmer Fudd, you sure like to act tough. Not unlike some “internet warrior,” I reckon.

  3. @Full Metal Attorney – That sounds like the makings of a pretty interesting article. You should definitely work on that, provided that you can whip it into something a layman can understand.

    @MetalMatt – totally agree. Looks like I’ll have to read you guys’ review, as I have a strict policy of not reading reviews of album I’m planning on reviewing until after my own has been written.

    @OrionPies – Normally I would delete trollish comments such as this, but I’ve taken so much amusement from it that I’ve opted to keep it. Not quite sure where you’re getting that I like to “act tough,” unless having strong opinions = acting tough, in which case I reckon I’m one of the baddest internet warriors on the motherfuckin’ planet. You should probably be aware however, that MetalMatt and I have determined that I actually look more like Beaky Buzzard than Elmer Fudd which means that by the time I reach retirement age I will resemble the Vulture from Spiderman. Anyway, thanks for reading snookums, I promise if we ever cross paths I’ll give you a great big hug and turn that heavy metal frown upside down! ;)

    @The Blog Less Traveled – Thanks for the kind words, sir! It’s always appreciated.

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