Magic Circle cast a wicked spell of traditional doom metal with a couple surprises for listeners. An already rock solid band take steps toward modern legend status with Departed Souls.
Release date: March 29, 2019 | 20 Buck Spin | Bandcamp
Here’s a quick synopsis of Magic Circle‘s latest album: one riff, two riff, red riff, blue riff. Quick riff, slow riff, loud riff, calm riff. All over the place riff, all up in your face riff. Riff, riff, riff, riff, riff. So much good guitar work here; the band’s debt to the classic rock and traditional melodic doom schools is paid well off with interest with Departed Souls. It’s a style they’ve trotted out for almost a decade, and one they do well. Ever since I heard 2015’s Journey Blind, their sound has decimated major ass, so I’m sure you could imagine how excited when I learned they had a new album coming out. How is it? Pretty damn cool, with some pleasant surprises thrown in!
Right out of the gate, you can see the familiar threads that bind this new album to the rest of their work, but it’s… slower? Wow, where did the foot-stomping ferocity of “Journey Blind” go? It’s here, but you have to dig just a bit (“Nightland” for you cheaters). I think the biggest difference between Departed Souls and the band’s previous work is this shows progression and restraint, which makes for a more mature album that you can really vibe to, and therein lies what makes this album a cut above the rest.
Just like “Journey Blind” before it, “Departed Souls” makes quite an impression utilizing sturdy melodies, varied pace, and infectiously ardent vocals. And it only gets better from here. In creating a fun, inviting vibe with all the aforementioned elements, Magic Circle show that their spellbook is quite diverse. “I Found My Way To Die” is monstrous, but trades the usual cavernous and pummeling sound of modern doom for ceaseless melody with shapeshifting riffs and vocals that beg to be sang loudly with friends in your ’86 T-Bird… or, you know, whatever car you may have.
I don’t know which song is my favorite, so I’m going to gush about two in particular. “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” is absolutely enchanting. From the clean guitars to the dialed back percussion, it creates an air of mystique and wonder. When I hear it, I see the final shades of blue and orange that coat the sky just before it’s fully usurped by the black of night. The end of the track brings an ambient moment that to me represents the new day breaking, color returning to the palate above and, indeed, it signals a dawn without nightmares, and everything is good. It’s a comforting feeling, one that’s felt throughout the entire sub-five-minute running time. This is not something I’d necessarily expect from a doom album, but it’s here and I adore the diversity.
“Gone Again” is the other track that stole my heart. It’s another slower affair, with a neat electric piano intro that gets your guard down a bit before a low-tempo eruption of drums, guitars, and vocals brings us back to Doomsville™. The piano stays throughout the track, accenting melodies and providing gentle interludes between verses. The lyrics are more poignant and gloomy here which, when added to the instrumentation, sums up to a psyched-out, melancholic mood that doesn’t sacrifice the heaviness that Magic Circle command so well. I love it.
Weirdly enough, the common denominator between my favorite moments on this album is the slower, more atmospheric approach they employ. Never would I think those would be my favorite moments of a ripping, rollicking melodic doom metal album. But that’s what really got me with Departed Souls: it surprised me. It gave me a new way in which to enjoy a favorite band of mine. Plus, it’s not like the band hasn’t played with tempo and mood prior to now, we just see the extravagant maturation of that sound, worthy of great praise. No matter what the speed, though, the band writes a hell of a riff.
This album’s so good, I think it made my soul depart. Magic Circle can have it; they won it fair and square with their contagious energy and devil-may-care approach to classic doom metal. If you’re like me and appreciate a tasty riff, huge vocals, and a smattering of expertly crafted atmosphere, you’ll find a lot to love in Departed Souls. I hope the band can remain as consistent as they’ve proven to be in the last decade because as of now, they’re on a hell of a tear. This is one doom band you can’t afford to overlook.