Music For Megaliths by Harvestman

Release date: May 19, 2017
Label: Neurot Recordings

Megalith, there’s a ‘metal’ word for you, a giant rock, no less. Menhirs and prehistoric, sacred standing stones, ritual and myth, worship and sacrifice. A weighty and worthy subject, then for Steve Von Till of underground metal legends Neurosis. Although if you are expecting riffs like boulders and hair raising tales on Music For Megaliths then you have come to the wrong place. Under the moniker of Harvestman, Von Till has produced three previous albums mixing drone, ambient, progressive rock and folk with just a patina of doom darkening the palette.

It’s unclear to me whether all these pieces are inspired by particular megaliths or he has created megaliths of the mind, a combination of memory and imagination, but either way opening track ‘The Forest Is Our Temple’ sounds exactly like the sort of thing you’d expect. Synths create a Celtic drone like ancient pipes, echoing guitar sounds motif and a bass beats like a slowing heart. History is conjured, brought forth, time slows and stops as the modern world slips away and you are caught in a dewy Harvestman’s web. The bass notes grow louder and quicken in an ominous thud before classical acoustic guitar is added to the soundscape, in a way it’s a flourish that let’s you know that this is art and artifice. Von Till toys with us on this track, creating the familiar and expected whilst still producing something powerful enough to be atavistic.

It is a strong start that unfortunately not all of the album lives up to, especially if like me you’re not particularly a fan of ambient music. Whilst the fittingly named ‘Oak Drone’ and quiet reverie of ‘Cromlech’ are both pleasantly atmospheric, I cant say I find either gripping enough to wish to return to them frequently.

Both the ghostly ‘Levitation’ and the fuzzy dystopian vibes of ‘Sundown’ have enough of an air of drama to keep your attention. ‘Sundown’ in particular is a haunting piece of near misanthropic horror, this sundown threatening a chilling permanence. Full of bursts of static and edgy jagged guitar I’m glad it doesn’t end the album as I think it would too much undermine other more mystical sounding pieces, like ‘The Forest Is Our Temple’ and the calming ebb and flow of ‘Ring of Sentinels’.

The closing ‘White Horse’ is where Von Till gives actual voice to his fascination with the stones as his deep voice intones “…gateway to mysteries and a pathway to the ancestors” and of his experiences of physical and spiritual communion through these places.

This is clearly a very personal and heartfelt project for Von Till, and I am certainly not here to disparage it, even I don’t love every minute of it. Music For Megaliths is at times a genuinely effective and affecting piece of art, with a rare depth and sensitivity.

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