Haze Mage – Chronicle

Much in the same way that Hip Hop is fine as long as you don’t mind blokes who can’t sing and lots of rhyming couplets, so Metal in all its forms is just as fine as long as you don’t mind the… ahem, special vocals.

For example, early Bathory is a thing of dark, savage beauty, but Quorthorn (RIP) basically sounds like Popeye doing Venom covers. Then there is Lemmy from Motorhead (RIP), who sounds like emphysema having an asthma attack. Or even Lee Dorian (still alive), who sounds like a Geography teacher off his tits on ‘shrooms at the Worst School Disco Ever.

Which brings us neatly to Maryland Doomsters Haze Mage, whose debut Chronicles (Grimoire Records) has lots of old school heavy psychedelia and vocals. Yes, vocals.

Now, I’m not saying they’re bad. But they are the equivalent of that annoying tit at university who’s doing Drama, and EXCESSIVELY enunciates EVERYTHING in a SORT of OVERLY THEATRICAL manner. The vocals simply try way too hard and blast it out to the extent that they sound both odd and overwrought.

This just doesn’t sound sincere mainly because it is so at odds with the music. It’s so hammy, it eats sunflower seeds and flicks turds out of its cage. It’s kitsch in its purest sense – an excess of artifice and an absence of taste and restraint.

And that’s the album’s great tragedy. It may break no ground, but by goodness, it knows how to nail rough, dirty, druggy hooks and make you want to love the end result like it’s the sweetest poison ever. Oh, you’ll have heard it all before, but seldom done so well, with such brio, with such sleazy focus. It grooves with debauched passion, and drones with leaden menace.

And when the vocals are reined in, from time to time, it all works. But then the over-done, over-amplified, over-everything singing slips its leash, and you’re left with the feeling of eating a lovely cake whilst suffering from severe toothache. If you can bear, or even enjoy the sort of vocals that could kill seagulls, then add a point. If you can’t, then remove a point. Everyone else will just have to endure these contrasts, and hope for the best.

6 / 10

ALEXANDER HAY