Fall of Leviathan – In Waves


Swiss post-rock quartet, Fall of Leviathan, take inspiration from all things nautical whether that be the turbulence of the oceans or the blissful serenity of the waves that caress the shoreline. The easy option is to call their music an amalgamation of Mogwai and Neurosis, but their debut album has pretensions to be cinematic. Five years in the making and approaching one hour in length, they deserve praise for their minimalist approach as much as their ability to compose immersive art with guitars at the forefront of their sound.

Opener, Nantucket’, thrives on pensive guitar chords that resonate in the mix like a pleasant reminiscence intruding upon your day when you least expect it. The quiet drumbeat in the first minute of action will remind you of Dave Grohl in Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged until Emma Richon gets into her stride on the kit. Melodies to this band are something to explore and pick apart rather than furnish to the listener as a gift. The distorted downstrokes that bellow from the speakers at the three-minute mark could be from any alternative rock album of the 1990s. You’ll enjoy following this song through loud and quiet moments as if listening to Gish by the Smashing Pumpkins. And, like all reflective music, its permanent strain of melancholy allows you to withdraw from the tempo of the daily grind and appreciate the simpler things in life, however bitter-sweet they may be.

You don’t need vocals when the music talks to you as lucidly as ‘In Waves’. Here, the clean guitar reverberations are thoughtful, like the sage who thinks before he speaks, so he will not be misunderstood. Naturally, Fall of Leviathan are at their most comfortable in a minor key. The bassist shows restraint, although you can hear David Seuret fret the root notes underneath. If there is a command, it’s to free yourself from all burdens and cut yourself off from all distractions while listening to their music. Yet you can go about your day undisturbed and get on with your chores as the floating chords and arpeggios ease through your speakers like simple poems calling you into their world of wonder. Or, better still, you might even allow the blissful peace to generate memories of loved ones.

Fall of Leviathan are not afraid of the rougher edges of their instruments. The screeching feedback and thunderous distorted chords in ‘Pacific’ set the scene for choppy waters. In this composition, the amp gain cackles like an overworked motherboard computer on its last legs. This band are experts at finding a quiet place to hibernate among the chaos of life. Observe how they bring the tempo down to one of calm introspection in the next section. Richon’s drums sound like brush strokes creating stress patterns on plastic tubs. Listen to your body. If it says sleep, then sleep; if it says wander, then wander. ‘Spermwhale’ follows in the same key and same mood – marvel at nature, be wary of pursuits that promise you riches and ask you to make sacrifices that go against your conscience. The jolt of fuzzy down-strumming guitars should be the wake up call you need to return to your selfless instincts in search of happiness.

For a maritime-themed album, this music can be just as illustrative away from the moody seas and quiet whisk of the shore. Yet the squawking geese in the background of ‘Red Bay’ leave you with the sensation of wet sand on your shoes and wind chills that can make your eyes water. Can your nostrils resist the salty aroma of the water? This is not a pleasant stroll on the beach – this is a solemn meditation away from the tourists, on quieter shores. By contrast, the discordant doom metal intro of closing track, ‘Ahkab’, is like Cult of Luna at a soundcheck with the bassist doing the main line testing. Perhaps the only predictable thing is that you know this song will reset to quieter dynamics. Fall of Leviathan’s instincts are to seek shelter from harm rather than confront it as a necessary price of existence. But they know they must pre-empt danger by preparing their defences. The return to distorted guitars makes sense when you feel that events are beyond your control unless you do something about them. A recording of a philosophical speech rumbles in the background like yesterday’s wisdom forgotten by the hubris of today’s establishment

It comes to an end as thoughtfully as it begins, and you know this record will be accompanying you on many journeys in the future, when solitude calls you into its embrace.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 01/03/2024

Record Label: Vitruve Records

Standout tracks: Nantucket, Pacific, Red Bay

Suggested Further Listening: Dead Cosmonauts – Parasomnia (2023), Milanku – À L’aube (2023), Becoming the Lion – Turning Point EP (2024)