Megaton Leviathan - Past 21 Beyond the Arctic CellWith a name like Megaton Leviathan, it’s reasonable to expect that the band in question will be one powerful and heavy proposition. And these assumptions would be bang on the nail for the Portland, Oregon trio play slow and weighty doom metal with occasional forays into drone, ambient and sludge territory. Factor in a mysterious concept based around the arctic and you have all the ingredients at hand for a bona fide doom metal voyage into the unknown.

First track ‘Past 21’ drifts along aimlessly taking in some very plain sights before things get a lot prettier around four minutes in with the emergence of some haunting vocals and melancholy guitar lines in the vein of funeral doom pioneers Skepticism. The tone is satisfyingly bleak and introspective and like all good doom worth its salt, leaves you feeling a bit depressed, yet eager to continue the journey, especially when some gorgeous cello makes an appearance towards the end. ‘The Foolish Man’ shakes things up a bit, adding some droning sitar into the mix as we drift onwards via the medium of plodding percussion, spiralling melodies and barely-awake vocals. However there’s no real climax and the song just peters out with little resolution.

‘Arctic Cell’ cranks up the distortion giving proceedings a more ominous feel, and calls to mind nautical funeral doom pioneers Ahab. The languid melodies are still ever present, maintaining the dreamy atmosphere and the gradually building threat of the end section, featuring a satisfyingly tense slow chug of the guitars, along with the emergence of a brilliantly treble-heavy bassline is a particular highlight. Unfortunately the same can’t really be said for the off-key vocals and Shoegaze-esque noise of closing track ‘Here Comes the Tears’ which again, doesn’t really progress in a satisfying manner.

While most doom bands rely on sheer heaviness and misery to make an impact, credit is due to Megaton Leviathan for imbuing their songs with plenty of ethereal melody and for allowing the music to evolve naturally. There is a feeling of improvisation and experimentation present which although fresh, sometimes means the songs lack direction and meander where they should crush. Listening to this album is almost akin to being adrift on an icebreaker somewhere in the Arctic Circle, with only the lonely iceberg sentinels for company. So it’s just a question of whether you die from madness or boredom and Megaton Leviathan still have some work to do to ensure that the latter is not the case.

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