Megaton Leviathan felt like a secret, something I discovered browsing through Bandcamp late one evening that none of my friends knew about. Funeral cosmic doom that embraced so many disparate elements to craft a forlorn style of music that spoke directly to the frightened receptors in my brain. After a sizable gap in time Mage has fallen to the cold, hard ground to remind me that buried in the dark is a lush sense of melody and decay.
The team of multi-instrumentalist Andrew James Costa Reuscher and musician/producer Mort Subite greatly expanded the core of Megaton Leviathan to craft Mage, and for those who might be familiar with the band there is definitely an evolution to the sound. Gone are the massive half-hour epics like “A Slow Death in D Minor” from Water Wealth Hell on Earth and cinematic soundscapes of 2014’s masterful Past 21 Beyond The Arctic Cell. Instead Mage travels the billowing route of shoegaze and synth-heavy ambience to convey something distinctly autumnal, very much in the vein of Jesu or latter day Ulver. a first listen to opener “Wave” almost had me thinking that’s what I was listening to.
But listening back to Past 21… in particular you can hear the strong sense of warmth and melody Reuscher and Subtie were weaving into Megaton Leviathan’s music. A minute into “Wave” brings a quiet pulsing space that leads into the next rush of verses. It’s a feat that the band is able to make this turn into a somewhat more “conventional” frame of songwriting while maintaining the identity they’ve crafted with their earlier work. That being said, there’s no way you can hear the opening of “Take the Fire” and think of it as anything but a late Jesu track i the best possible way. Each instrument seems to lay atop the other creating blanket of sound that wraps the vocals as they move. The title track moves into a heavier, psychedelic stoner vibe, every slide on the guitar strings and clack of the drumsticks audible in the crystal clear production. Shared vocals between Reuscher and singer/violinist Andrea Morgan rise in and out of the music, coming in synoptic waves.
“The Bulldog” goes for a more synth, dark wave approach, channeling Depeche Mode and, strangely, Tears For Fears…albeit a Tears For Fears trapped in a nightmare of rain and black cold. It keeps a tentative pace until about halfway through where it suddenly opens up, drums pounding a static pulse as the music swirls up and out, paving the way for the 15-minute closer “Within The Threshold.” The first few minutes are straight up cinematic synthwave, keyboards arpeggiating against panning soundscapes before settling down to a sinister industrial vibe. When it finally unleashes into its final form we get a beautifully expansive view of how exactly this new direction fits in with the band’s more classic sound. It’s the best track the band has put out to date, just a mammoth song.
Megaton Leviathan still feels like a secret to me. Mage feels like a whisper from someone almost but not quite forgotten, and I suspect the direction and evolution of the band will go some way to wards a lot more people hearing the secret, too.