PICK OF THE WEEK: Magic Circle hit metallic roots on the mark with sweltering new ‘Departed Souls’

Photo by Frank Huang

It’s a pretty great time when music can take you and transport you somewhere else, letting you soak in a different environment for a while. Music should be a sort of escape, right? At least some of it should be. That’s why when putting on a record and feeling your mind occupy a different space is such a ridiculously rewarding journey.

Boston traditional doom warriors Magic Circle pull that off expertly with their expansive new record “Departed Souls,” a collection that I’m not 100 percent convinced wasn’t created with help of a time machine, some 1970s herb to smoke, and vintage recording equipment that just so happened to find its way back to 2019 and 20 Buck Spin’s release schedule. This album makes me relive the days when I discovered NWOBHM (there are elements of that here as well) along with other bands who simply were lumped under the umbrella of “heavy metal” without all the sub-genre classifications. It’s actually nice to be old enough to remember that. Anyway, with these eight songs, Magic Circle (their members also play with bands such as Innumerable Forms, Sumerlands, and Lifeless Dark) leave you intoxicated, wondering if you’re really living in days passed four decades ago amid some bizarre vehicle that got your there. The band—vocalist Brendan Radigan, guitarists Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro, bassist Justin DeTore, drummer Q—takes you even further into the clouds as they did on 2015’s “Journey Blind” and fully commit you to existing outside your headspace for 45 minutes. You’ll be happy you did.

“Departed Souls” kicks off the record with killer riffs, and early ’80s vibe, and Radigan’s voice reaching into the stratosphere, which it does often on this record. The song has a nice breakdown later with some great lead guitar work, fiery playing, and an ambiance that feels like an era long lost. “I’ve Found My Way to Die” has guitars charging, the rhythm buzzing and Radigan’s vocals sweltering. The chorus rushes through a psyche haze as Radigan later wails, “I will never die with the herd, I got to make my stand,” while the guitar work soars, and the cut bashes closed. “Valley of the Lepers” has doom-rich riffs that kick in and pace the song slowly. “Welcome to the depths, my friend,” Radigan warns as the guitars launch and give off echo. The tempo begins to trudge as the soloing soars into the scene, then psychedelic keys end everything in a fog. “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” begins clean before it gets trippy, with hand drumming adding to the atmosphere. Vocals then tear out into the night while keys blare, mind-numbing melodies swim, the drums get more rapid, and the intensity froths over.

“Nightland” has drums encircling before the riffs whip into shape, and a forceful tempo is unleashed, pushed by the driving singing. Dual guitars combine, a gong crashes, and the pace changes into something reflective for a stretch. Things then ramp up again as the guitars swagger with life, the soloing glimmers, and the track rides out into the night. “Gone Again” has bluesy keys slinking before the playing gets muddy, and teeth are sunk into the meat of the song. “She never comes here anymore,” Radigan calls while a spacey vibe settles in before guitar buzz cuts through that for a bit before the heavens open again, bringing starlight to the track’s storming end. “Bird City Blues” is an instrumental piece with guitars quivering and charges going down the spine, albeit gently, and that paves the way for closer “Hypnotized” and its jangling guitars and Radigan’s singing launching into the night. The track is slow driving yet chunky, with the singing keeping the calculated drive in tact before the guitars light the torches. From there, the playing is reflective but scarred, with light blinding your eyes before everything fades into the background.

Magic Circle already were a really stellar band before their third opus “Departed Souls” arrived, but this album takes them into rarified air as one of the modern era’s most imaginative classic doom bands. Every inch of this thing feels like a dream, a travel back to a time when we lived simply for the blood of metal and not for the arguments over the validity of offshoot sounds and movements. This is pure, real, and a savagely good time, something we don’t get enough of these days.

For more on the band, go here: https://magiccircle.bandcamp.com/releases

To buy the album, go here: https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/departed-souls

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