Back in 2018, Megaton Leviathan dropped a little album called Mage. I reviewed it, the proof is right here, but unless you know the lore or had reviews like that as record of its existence, you’d never know it since it’s been ass-blasted from streaming and most other sources (the primary artist behind the band himself does still have some CDs and vinyl though, hit him up). This is likely because that album was released under the now defunct, always legendarily good Blood Music label.
This is really only important to know because it helps inform my review of Magick Helmet, Megaton Leviathan‘s latest. I wanted to relisten to Mage, but uh… I can’t. I wanted that additional context of my time with the band (now scaled down to a power trio) so I could take the proper stepping stones to this new work, but my lack of context has made Magick Helmet hit harder and maybe that was a good thing? This is not an easy album to get into, a fact the band is very upfront with – ‘it is an album you don’t just listen to in enjoyment but also endure‘.
The first couple listens were certainly endured as I was assaulted with a cavalcade of noise and fuzz while what I ascertain is a perfectly good song(s) played underneath. Doing the ear version of squinting allows you to hear the driving rhythms and psychedelic wails buried underneath the chaos of effects and production, and there’s some solace in that. It’s like being in a huge crowd with anxiety, but being able to see a great friend’s face or hear their voice near you so everything’s all right.. for now. Magick Helmet really wants you to flounder a bit in its clamor, but doesn’t leave you to drown as long as you’re willing to do a little paddling.
The best moment for me is when the doomier proclivities of the band take over on the latter half of “The Belly Of The Beast”. It’s much more slowed-down, more plodding, but to its benefit. Notes stand out easier and you can hear each instrument clash up against – and through – a wall of effects. Guitars are always pretty wiry and erratic, but here they sound more like a moan, tired from keeping up all the energy during the album’s first half. Drums are ‘luded out, the arms holding the sticks sound heavy and it comes through in each cymbal splash and tom strike. The bass is a constant hum, containing the closest thing to a melody with how it dances around its confined area of a scale.
And hell, the last song “Helios Creeds Magick Helmet” starts off as comparatively unassuming as “The Belly Of The Beast” ends. A great intro to a mammoth track that really runs the gamut of psychedelic doomgaze, including ramping back up its more grating tendencies that proved difficult at first. They’re a bit easier to manage here, but at least the lead-in is nice and smooth, like I imagine a drug high is. I guess this means most of my beef is with the first two tracks, both named “The Final Form Of Nothing Is Final”, the second is just a lengthy reprise of the former even though it’s subtitled “(A Slight Reprise)”. That’s where the sound is the rawest, providing a dense barrier to work through to find Magick Helmet‘s tender meat, the real good shit that gets a great taste after grilling for a while and being amply sauced and tossed. No, I totally didn’t have barbeque chicken for dinner tonight, why do you ask?
I really don’t want this to sound like a negative review, despite even my personal qualms with it. People will like this, more than me – Megaton Leviathan are also offering this album up for completely free right now through the label’s website, surely a testament to the passion of an artist’s work over profit if absolutely nothing else. Can’t argue with that and what the album lacks in a barrier to entry, it makes up for in a sonic barrier, one that I hope you can overcome easier than I did.
I thank Megaton Leviathan for coming back into my life. It may not have been in the form I desired, remembered from before, or needed, but I try to face down challenges when they come around, and Magick Helmet was certainly one. What I liked, I liked, and what I didn’t, I didn’t. As a result, I don’t know if I’ll be returning to it, but don’t let that stop you from exploring its prickly soundscapes, perfectly described as using ‘Godzilla delays‘ by the band. Fitting because with headphones, I thought I was about to get vaporized by a big kaiju, but I guess that ain’t a terrible way to go.