Russia’s black metal outfit Second to Sun are busy bees indeed, they churn out records at quite a fast pace. 2011 was the founding year of the band, and since then they have released 9 full lengths and 3 EPs. Not even a full decade into their existence, they now gift us with their tenth album Leviathan.
They clearly have been using their extensive practice with releasing music to also hone their production skills. Guitarist/songwriter Vladimir Lehtinen is the band’s own sound engineer, and he mixed and mastered this release. The sound is heavy, very modern, polished and extremely professional. Now “polished” might not be the sound you look for in your black metal, but it works with the style the band utilizes. On Leviathan Second to Sun blend black metal tremolo picking and vocals with synth ambience and atmosphere similar to what you might find on a Kardashev record. It is a quite unique sound, at least to me, but it works. I get a distinctly industrial vibe from this, which is a nice alternation from the “usual” style that most black metal bands employ. So while I love well done traditional black metal and low-fi production to death, this is the perfect weapon of choice for when you want to spice things up a bit.
Leviathan consists of 9 songs that sum up to 49 minutes, and has quite enough variety to keep you engaged throughout its running time. There’s slow and stomping tracks that heavily weigh down on you, and there’s fast and frantic blast beat orgies. The songwriting is varied and well done. Next to aforementioned Vladimir Lehtinen on guitars and responsible for songwriting and production, we have 3 other members to mention. Theodor Borovski is responsible for drums, and while he definitely delivers, unfortunately his work does not feel as impressive as it probably should. That’s the downside of such a modern and almost sterile production for me. The drums lack the dynamics of a real kit and therefore might as well be programmed. I have similar problems with the bass by Maxim – he is almost inaudible most of the time, which is the eternal curse of any ultra-modern, compressed metal mix – you might feel him, but you don’t really hear him. Last but not least we have Gleb Sysoev, Maxim’s brother, who delivers an impressive show on vocals. Boy oh boy, this man can scream.
Overall I give a clear recommendation for Leviathan. Its modern style and production might scare off black metal purists, but for me it works as an alternative besides my usual choices. Leviathan could also work as pretty heavy-hitting gateway drug to any metal head more familiar with popular metal that hitherto could not get around the low-fi production of many black metal bands. Either way, it’s a damn good record.