While bands such as Pallbearer and Khemmis have been roundly lauded as the prime exponents of modern Progressive Doom, Boston’s Magic Circle has received less attention but is no less of a creative talent. The third album Departed Souls takes up where predecessor Blind Journey (both 20 Buck Spin) left off but sees positively lumimous advances from a whole host of instruments.
The bedrock of the band’s sound lies in the mournful yet crushing tones of Black Sabbath, with the opening title track seeing this template coated in a delicious groove and Brendan Radigan’s soaring vocal: a hybrid of Ozzy Ozbourne and the mellifluous force of Pallbearer’s Brett Campbell. Moving effortlessly through the gears it’s both a gloomy display of passion and a Heavy Rock bluster.
The ensuing ‘I’ve Found My Way To Die’ commences in the form of the latter mode, but finds its way to more subtle yet energised passages. The throaty, rollicking riffs are complemented by an incredible performance from Radigan, his roaring Blues holler replicated by some emotive leadwork. ‘Valley Of The Lepers’ is graced by more of these whiskeyed strains while carrying a slower pace, a Trad Metal feel with a vocal evoking Tesla’s Jeff Keith: sparkling histrionics underpinned by remarkable power. The second half of the track reintroduces the irresistible ripping pace before returning to a lumbering, sinister yet Folk-tinged coda.
‘A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares’ adopts a Psychedelic hue, some glorious melodies dancing with 12-string chords, and atmospheres which evoke the indigenous touches of The Black Crowes. ‘Nightland’ is a careering rocker dictated by the drums of the enigmatic Q, a knee-buckling chorus flanked by a dual lead-rhythm riff and Radigan’s phenomenal howl. The harmonies of the gentle mid-section are scarcely believable, the resulting guitar work and smoking rhythm an addictive delight.
Lovely Fender Rhodes notes pepper the magnificent, balladic ‘Gone Again’, adding a gorgeous and occasionally zany 70s Soul element to a sound that suddenly fires into life, leading to a chorus which carries the melodic progressiveness of Kansas. The brief Country twang of the penultimate ‘Bird City Blues’ is delightful in a Led Zep whimsical instrumental fashion, setting the scene perfectly for powerful, Folk-influenced closer ‘Hypnotized’: a searing trudge with electrifying vocals, crushing riffs and dazzling leads which still finds space for beautiful, delicate bridges.
Magic Circle are a prime example of Prog not being a by-word for ‘complex’. By adding excerpts of other genres and finding a way to melodise odd chord progressions they make Departed Souls one of the most involving, passionate and enlivening albums you’ll hear this year.
8 / 10