Megaton Leviathan - Past 21 Beyond the Arctic Shell

One of the things that I love about music is that no matter how much time I spend listening to (and obsessing over) it, I likely won’t ever do more than just scratch the surface of what’s out there. The happy result of this is that pretty much every year there’s at least one band that isn’t even remotely on my radar that releases an album that completely knocks me on my ass. This year, that band is Portland-based psychedelic drone/doomsters Megaton Leviathan, whose recently released Past 21 Beyond the Arctic Shell has quickly become one of my favorite albums of the year.

The thing that’s so remarkable about Past 21 is that while the album’s four long songs (the shortest clocks in at 8:29) are clearly part of a thematic whole, individually they all sound very different from each other, which is a testament to lone remaining member Andrew James Costa’s songwriting skills. Costa, who is the lone remaining member of Megaton Leviathan (they were a trio on their 2010 debut Water Wealth Hell on Earth, but the lineup now seems to be Costa and studio/touring musicians), has a knack for writing songs that stay faithful to the classic drone and doom tropes while adding unexpected elements to the mix.

Opener “Past 21,” which is probably the most classically doom track on the album, builds from a simple, repeated clean guitar figure to incorporate strange electronic noises and heavily layered, almost alien sounding vocals. The song also features a middle section reminiscent of Disintegration-era The Cure and a gorgeous violin-and-guitar coda that evokes early My Dying Bride. Second track “The Foolish Man” is the most progressive of the four, with its heavy use of sitar (courtesy of Henry Barnes of Bastard Noise and Amps For Christ) and violin and backmasked-sounding vocals. “Arctic Cell” shows a heavy Pink Floyd influence, with it’s space-age (or at least the 60’s version of space-age) panned vocals and long psychedelic slide guitar section. Closer “Here Come The Tears” starts off a bit shakily with some questionable, almost crooned clean vocals, but picks up more of a Nick Cave vibe as it builds in intensity; the last half of the song also features some really tasty, noisily distorted lead work.

Past 21 Beyond the Arctic Shell is available digitally and on vinyl from Seventh Rule Records.