There’s a lot of great heavy metal and doom coming out of the U.S., but few bands have been able to offer that perfect mix like Magic Circle has. The group’s last two albums have mixed equal amounts of doom and NWOBHM with hard rock, creating a mix that is reminiscent of plenty of classic albums without ever sounding too close to any individual one. For their third full length Departed Souls Magic Circle has once again brought riff after catchy riff, with a bit more emphasis on the 70s rock influences than before. It’s not a massive change from their previous output but expands outwards just enough to let even more textures flow through, resulting in an album that hooks right from the start but reveals more nuances with each listen.
At its core, Departed Souls balances equal amounts of early doom and bluesy riffs with the swagger of classic NWOBHM and the rhythm section is likely what will initially draw listeners to the material. But there’s a bit more going on beneath the surface, as while the driving leads and drumming up the energy level there are layers of melody that hint at just as many 70s prog and psychedelic rock influences. It’s not nearly as prominent stylistically as some of the other doom bands out there, instead being used in a subtle manner that gives the songs a bit more depth and encourage listeners to pay attention to the small details as they spend extended time with the record. There’s a warmer, earthier feel to the tonality that also adds to the appeal, and this is amplified on tracks like “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” where the instrumentals explore some of their mellowest ideas to date. It’s not easy to balance this type of softer, hazier instrumentation with high-energy hard rock swagger without losing your audience during the transitions but Magic Circle nails it and delivers an album that makes forty-five minutes go by in no time at all with how entrancing every riff is.
While the guitar work alone has more than enough hook to make Departed Souls worth your time, Brendan Radigan’s singing once again puts Magic Circle above many of their peers. He has quite a bit of range and is able to project his voice outwards in a way that stands tall above the instrumentals and soars at just the right times. It’s one of those performances that feels huge and suited for arenas during the peaks but gets more down to earth during the softer psychedelic tinged passages. There aren’t too many singers in this type of music that have me paying attention to every word but Magic Circle’s been able to do that with each of their albums and Radigan only continues to get better as the years progress.
Departed Souls pulls from a lot of familiar influences but puts their own spin on things, channeling the best of the 70s and 80s without coming off as a mere throwback. The increase in the amount of psychedelic and mellower elements works well with the high energy riffs that make up the rest of the material, and any fan of doom or heavy metal is likely to find this to be an early highlight of 2019. Departed Souls is available from 20 Buck Spin.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
If you enjoyed this article, be sure to share it with others to help us grow. You can also like and follow us on the social media of your choice with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and support us on Patreon.