PICK OF THE WEEK: Magic Circle unleash the spirit of classic metal on doomy ‘Journey Blind’

Magic CircleMetal makes me think of the weekend. Every form of metal, actually. The traditional style mostly, but all metal in general. That’s probably because that’s when I listen most (something that’s been the process ever since I discovered this music), and often times that’s with a nice beer in hand, trying to forget the woes of the week.

The first time I ripped into “Journey Blind,” the second record from Boston-based traditionalists Magic Circle, I instantly was transferred to a Saturday, later at night when the dark has emerged and I’m icing my feelings. They remind me of a band I’d hear in the deeper hours of “Headbangers Ball,” when all the good stuff got played because all the hair metal fans had gone to sleep. The power of Candlemass, post-Ozzy Sabbath, St. Vitus, and bands of those ilk came rushing to mind, as well as some more recent additions to the world such as Night Demon and Dawnbringer. The music is heavy but melodic, the vocals are sung, but with an edge, and each track on the album takes you away somewhere fantastical, even if we aren’t discussing dungeons and dragons on the record.

Magic Circle coverMagic Circle first formed in 2011, with member of bands as varied as Doomriders, Innumerable Forms, Stone Dagger, and Death Evocation coming together to form this pure heavy metal machine. They rolled out their first full-length, a self-titled platter, a couple years later, and now they’re back with this sophomore offering. The band is comprised of Brendan Radigan on vocals; Chris Corry and Dan Ducas on guitars; Justin DeTore on bass; and Q behind the drums. Their sound is totally natural and effective, making it sound like they actually recorded this during late nights in, say, 1983. Instead, they just have a grasp on what makes fine traditional heavy metal, which they show you on “Journey Blind.”

The title track opens this opus, with keys initially swirling, giving off a fantasy feel, before launching into doomy guitars that charge up and singing that has grit and passion. The fires are tended to by the band, with strong lead guitar work, galloping and chugging, and a finish that’s just killer. “The Damned Man” is crunchy and heavy from the start, with the singing commanding, and the band achieving a true vintage feel. The guitars chew and glimmer, while the singing feels grimier, and a quick burst of acoustic melodies pave the way for a crushing finish. “A Ballad for the Vultures” breathes doom winds again, plotted slower but still heavy, as the band stomps at a calculated pace. That pace doesn’t last, as the band rips the song open later, with faster playing, the vocals practically spat out, and the soloing spurting burning lava and glory. “Lightning Cage” starts with acoustic flourishes before the charging begins, ripping into a heavy, catchy shuffle. They keep the storm brewing throughout the track, with the band hitting the gas pedal to the end.

“Ghosts of the Southern Front” feeds off the energy of the previous cut, injecting a classic rock feel into the song and again reaching for the genre’s deeply entrenched roots. “I have lived my whole life with my soul asleep,” Radigan wails during this epic, with the band continuing to push the drama and volume, and the pace consistently mauling. The guitar work gives the track an awesome aura, making it easy to get lost in their creation, and they renew their vigor in the cut’s final moments, plowing everything in front of them. “Grand Deceivers” trudges menacingly, with some damn tasty guitar work and really heavy sections. The singing drives the verses, with dual guitar lines meeting up and creating one voice, and the track burning brightly right before it fades. Closer “Antediluvian” throws punches right away, giving off a 1970s charge as the riffs start to bubble. A brief period of calm leads right into tumult, with the band breaking the earth beneath them with their playing, and the vocals sounding dirtier. As they finish up, the playing bristles and singes, and the track makes its final impacts before fading away.

Magic Circle have crafted one of the more enjoyable classic, honest heavy metal records of the year, an album that feeds of the origins of the genre, as well as its majesty and glory. “Journey Blind” should excite the graybeards who have been around since the Sabbath/Priest/Maiden heyday, and even those who came later who are into this sound’s rebirth. This is a damn fun listen that will get you no matter what day of the week you’re hearing. But preferably, it’s late night on Saturday.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.magiccircleheavymetal.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/collections/music

For more on the label, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/