Departed Souls by Magic Circle

An album artwork depicting the subtle aftermath of a desolate cemetery resurrection complete with riffs on it not-so-subtly worshipping Vol. 4, Magic Circle summon a headspace on “Departed Souls” that is pure and unadulterated, doom-stained rock ’n roll. They hath formed from the remains of other heavy metal spirited projects dwelling in the underground, as each member of this band has more than enough on their resume, and it shows. They come together to create what is known as Magic Circle… A phenomenon amongst American heavy metal bands and otherworldly spirits alike. The unholy marriage of them and 20 Buck Spin record label, whom are responsible for easily some of the best underground metal in recent history, makes for a perfect heavy metal alliance to unleash the Departed Souls amongst the heard. From the aforementioned Sabbath-drenched riffs and howling vocals, to the heavy as brimstone hammering of the drums, along with raw psych blues-empowering the mystic forces of this record, Magic Circle capture- well - magic. And I present to you their best record yet.

Being as there is absolutely no shortage of current bands (stoner, doom, sabbath-worship, label them as you wish… at this point I really couldn’t care) to summon 70’s hard rock influences into their own nostalgia ridden work, it seems doom metal is getting a resurgence of life into its ancient sleeping lungs with upcoming acts such as that of Magic Circle. It makes it more interesting, for me anyway, that they function as a mystical sort of “side project” existing exclusively to rock the actual faces of all those who dare to listen and worship the gods of heavy metal. Calm your weaponry, they accomplish this noble mission of rock ’n roll power to absolute perfection. The roaring twin guitars blaze with might on every track; often trading battle strategies between Chris Corry & Dan Ducas as one can lock down a doom-drenched & smoke-filled rhythm section while the other handles serious lead lickery that harkens back to the golden age that started all this madness. Spearheaded by who’s shaping up to be one of the most important vocalists in underground metal at this time, Brendan Radigan, spits out deep and mystical lyrics like a tortured Ozzy meets graveyard-dwelling seer. I’ll stop while I’m ahead… NOT to blatantly name-drop, as it is quite easy to do while reviewing the kind of retro metal that Magic Circle channel into existence, as sometimes it is even necessary to adequately describe the level of genuine rock magic that is going on here. For instance, think progressive-era Sabbath, (as they channel some heavy Never Say Die vibes in the best, beautiful, most respectful of ways possible) spice it up with some Witchfinder General for good measure, throw some second album Pentagram in the mix, and of course have it all wrapped up in a nice Deep Purple’s Live in Japan for the rawness and Led Zeppelin III for the melody, bury it (in a proper spooky cemetery if you have ANY sort of respect) for a few hundred years, unearth the bastard, play it backwards… aaaand I think you kind of have an understanding of what you’re getting with “Departed Souls.” WOW… Uhhh..what? No? Shit. Sorry. You know when you do the thing you say you’re not gonna do but you think you’re gonna do it really well so you do it anyway and it doesn’t work or give anyone a better explanation of the music or do anything other than simply show you listen to music and know band comparisons good? You’re welcome. And I hope you get my point. I feel too many reviewers and fans alike don’t have anything else much to say when it comes to bands like this other than “It sounds like Iommi, maaaaan.” Well, NOT that there’s a GOOD goddamn thing wrong with sounding like The Hand Of Doom, mind you; but I do feel as though it sells the band pretty short. ESPECIALLY this band. While Magic Circle do employ these techniques of tribute, they are much more than a tribute band. They are masters of their craft, which is that of making good ‘ol fashioned, no frills, hard-motha-fuckin’ ROCK in a time that we so desperately need it. The musicianship and songwriting skills displayed on this record are nothing short of mesmerizing, and the more it spins the better it gets.

If you’re still standing, able to speak, or form any remnants of conclusive thoughts after the left, right, and straight bloody uppercut that is the first three tracks on “Departed Souls”, you might know what I’m talking about. The opening title track is definitely a crowd-pleasing, fist-in-the-air, riff-heavy (and the riff IS nasty) with a chunky groove, signature anthem that’ll leave you questioning the ground you walk on. The following track, “I’ve Found My Way To Die” transforms that fist in the air properly into double middle fingers via high tempo and a higher attitude chorus. This reaffirms Magic Circle’s reign over modern doom titans within its simply sinister and catchy, hypnotic and delicious arrangements. The “Valley Of The Lepers” that follows next on our journey is not only my personal favorite but the longest and most epically heavy on the entire record. Opening up with a portal-spawning primitive pounding of the animal skins and leaving you drenched in droning feedback; but not before guiding your hand down a burning landscape of blasphemous harmony and infectious melody. “I’M THE FATHER OF LIES!” Bursts forth Radigan’s signature vocal power before effortlessly gliding into beautiful vocal harmony for the chorus, further expressing his classic rock chops (as if he needs to at this point). But, not before he lays down some of the best lyrics on the entire record with “I don’t walk the high road / I just don’t believe in the lore that makes men slaves / To his capricious ego’s needs” …among a few light and warming others.

The rest of the record follows suit in patterns of everything from transcendent tempo changes, acoustic melodies, pulsating headbangers, even more hauntingly vocalized lyricism, and of course; riffs. Where would we be without those? As mentioned, the guitar section’s tone jumps through the mix as if it just was torn from one of those desolate graves on the album’s cover. The dual 6-string section is reminiscent of everything from Tangerine Song to Powerslave AND THERE I GO NAME DROPPING AGAIN. But, I implore you to take a listen to “Nightland” and you’ll catch my soul’s drift. The progressive nature of this beast is simply untamable by human hands. Of course, what would a progressive doom rock band be without the power of the bass? Rest assured, Justin Detore, is an undenaible maser of the genre (check out Innumerable Forms RIGHT NOW) handles the bright and thumping bass with more than enough precision and groove, and the mix treats it with the utmost respect (as it damn well should). As the “Departed Souls” draw towards a conclusion with a few more headbangers and psych-outs, the only thing I was left wishing is that the beautifully composed “Bird City Blues” was fleshed out (pun intended) a little bit more. Clocking in at barely over a minute, that’s quite a small gripe. Other than that, its all gravy baby. Any fan of the genre, bong-ripping doom metal purists and classic-rock-only fans alike, are like to dig the hell out of this record…. As I clearly did. Huge thanks to Magic Circle for summoning the magic and 20 Buck Spin for putting out the coolest shit. Cheers, freaks.

Rating: 4.5/5

Gym Rating: 4/5

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