Smashed apart by the whipping pulse of tiered decay celestial bodies implode in geologic time, setting alight the reverberating stones of long-buried ancient civilizations with radiant shock to ancient foundations. Awakened beneath a fresh blanketing of superbolide radiation and cryptically charged machinery Chelyabinsk, Russia-based psychedelic doom metal trio Megalith Levitation look within the crystal they pass from hand to hand to imbue themselves with the refraction of the flame, occult-hallucinatory visions which delve deeper into the mind with every honed step. ‘Obscure Fire‘ is a third and finest scripture from these Ural-bound devotees of the riff and its transmogrifying properties upon the ripples of the mind — a record which adds wrinkles to the organelle of sentience per increasingly potent rituals in a not-so bizarre yet still vexing tradition.
Megalith Levitation formed circa 2016 with the same trio of hooded cultists which persists today, intent on divination of lysergic visions and shared experiences in altered consciousness by way of doomed psychedelia. Since I’d addressed the discography of the band in fairly detailed review of their second full-length (‘Void Psalms‘, 2021) the gist is that their experience finds them smartly honing in on their biggest breakthroughs and core traits over the years. Their notable debut ‘Acid Doom Rites‘ (2019) began with indulgent longform gloom of the fuzzed and dread-inducing kind, by the time ‘Void Psalms‘ had released their songs had pulled back to nearly half their length, instead of pairing two ~12 minute songs for one piece they’d pair roughly six minute pieces which were tightly related in theme, and this has meant getting to the “goods” quicker while still taking their time. If we are to consider style and aesthetic these considerations have stayed true to their original ideal which structurally resembles the general Sleep-derived lumbering thought on stoner/doom metal rhythmic but also explores the meditative dark psychedelic entrancement of Dark Buddha Rising as well as the occult ire of rare groups like Saturnalia Temple.
I’d already felt like ‘Void Psalms‘ was a fine enough example of a still underground feeling psychedelic/stoner doom metal edge-case with an entirely personal touch but here on album number three their voice is a bit louder, songs a big easier to seep into thanks to “cleaner” production values which still feel extreme and no less tied to their already nuclear stoner/doom attuned sound. The typical piece from Megalith Levitation bears a central rhythmic fixation, either a point of peaking will or meditative centre which consistently generates an eerily transcendental mood, less a stumbling stoner ease and instead a tension which is not only palpable but all-consuming. This effect has only intensified as they’ve economized their statements into ~7-10 songs and steadily improved their production values with each release. From scratchy, signal bleeding fuzz boxes scrabbling in the left channel to a more lucid stereoscopic thunder they’ve notably presented a best yet face to greet newcomers and old heads alike with ‘Obscure Fire‘.
Of course the shamanic, psychedelic, ritualistic… lysergic haunt of this band becomes quickly evident, that fixation isn’t necessarily rare in modern stoner doom which aims to be experiential but this is an especially strong example of a band who put a twist on it beyond ominous chanting and plenty of guitar effects drenching the hall. Granted, that is how they greet us with opener/title track “Obscure Fire” which is well set in place with its huge riff up front ands its slithering unravel throughout the song. Take note around the ~7:28 minute mark on the song, as an important piece of foreshadowing to start. The missing piece, or, the extra note that should be more obvious as you build familiarity with their discography is that Megalith Levitation absolutely thrive within the occasional jam-like tangents which emerge at least a few times on each record. This time around these are feature more readily and slightly more often, the most striking example which presents itself relatively up front being “Of Silence” as it steps into the ~6:58 minute mark and breaks into a psychedelic freakout, well, as freakout as this type of doom ever gets without a hard rock swing in sight. This is one of my favorite songs and moments on the album though I’m not sure that is saying much when there are yet four main pieces overall alongside an interlude (“Descending”) which sews the end of “Of Silence” together with “Into the Depth”.
Not all but most of Megalith Levitation‘s releases have approached songs as jams, spells, separate rituals which cut each record into four variously equal parts while often conjoining pieces. This time around ‘Obscure Fire‘ doesn’t cut the greater event apart in the same way, instead developing a narrative shared between most songs with no major pauses between the contents of each side. Fewer interruptions naturally means staying connected to whatever immersion is achieved and this’d gone a long way towards getting stuck on this record for hours at a time; Each song on Side A flows seamlessly into the next but more importantly begins developing (or, implying) the rhythmic motif of the next song just as it ends, this was ultimately a great facto in my favoring the first half of this record. As we step into the ~20 minute pairing of “Into the Depth” and “Of Eternal Doom” over on Side B it is clear these are more a progression of joint meaning, a grand finale which doesn’t marry in the same way the first half of the record had. While I’d generally found “Into the Depth” a somewhat average song it does not upend or tarnish its place within the full listen, instead serving as a heavier lurking point of entry which sets us up for the searching psychedelia-strewn advance of the closer. I’d particularly enjoyed the cleaner bass tone and its curious chthonic groove beneath the wandering, repetitive action of “Of Eternal Doom” and in a way this half of the record gave me more of what I’d liked most about ‘Void Psalms‘ with a slightly different approach.
As a fan of dark, possessed and psychedelic doom metal ‘Obscure Fire‘ is a fairly natural fit for my own collection as a release rooted just enough in the periphery of traditional doom metal to avoid losing the plot while also achieving the headier extremes meditative, riff-driven stoner doom metal has to offer in its most ominous form. Though Megalith Levitation have streamlined their experience with sharper production values and a more standard ~45 minute album length this third time around these choices have only enhanced and highlighted the surreal qualities of the trio’s craft making for a fine entry point and milestone in their greater evolution. A high recommendation.
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