The history of Magic Circle can be distilled to one word: dominance. The members of this band – Brendan Radigan, Chris Corry, Dan Ducas, Justin DeTore, Michael Quartulli, Renato Montenegro—their names run rampant on discogs real estate, running an Amazon-like monopoly. Apart from the fact that at least one Magic Circle member was in every hardcore band from Boston to New Bedford in the last two decades (XFILESX, Rival Mob, Mind Eraser, Righteous Jams, Soul Swallower, Aggression Pact, Prisoner Abuse, No Tolerance, Mental, Boston Strangler, and a dozen more), the members have additionally ventured into Oi successfully with Lovely Lads and then the epic Battle Ruins. And then in 2013, these five men made a doom album because, well, why not. And they crushed it. Thunderous perfection. SXE dudes obviously got time and focus. As proven again by more supplemental bands serving top notch metal such as Stone Dagger, Sumerlands, Pagan Altar, and Innumerable Forms). Magic Circle’s eponymous first release (2013; Armageddon Label) established a paradigm of American Doom that demanded more mystical malice. Blind Journey saw the band leap to 20 Buck Spin. And 20 Buck Spin puts this monster out as well on March 29th.
Departed Souls proudly hails the path of Black Sabbath; late Ozzy era and the Dio canon. Tossing in captivating allusions to Cirith Ungol and Trouble, Magic Circle manages to create doom metal which is clean, heavy and slow. Comparisons to contemporaries like Hour of 13, Khemmis, and Pallbearer all make sense. And while delving into the fantastical, Magic Circle have grit and aren’t as celestial as Pallbearer. Departed Souls, the third journey of this Massachusetts crew, tickles new boundaries as the album births some Prog-rock influences. Prog is not my thing. So, I don’t know how much Yes or Genesis or whatever, but I recognize Prog chops and elements when it slithers in my ears. Magic Circle unabashedly tout these mechanics with scientific funk-jazz chords and keyboards. And it coalesces to work especially well.
Departed Souls proves to be a bastion of thick and heavy grooves. Magic Circle’s rock chops succeed from the members harvesting celebrated riffs influenced by doom, NWOBHM, Prog-rock and hard rock. So, give it whatever name, but prepare to sway that neck and hoist many invisibly oranges.
The title track initiates and halfway through the 6 minute joint, Magic Circle switch up instead of resting on the laurels of a sweet riff. They jump into double time and rock a new perspective on the groove. “I’ve Found My Way to Die” maybe the catchiest track. It is one of the strongest, for sure. The guitar work is mesmerizing. The leads smoke and dominate at warp speed while the rhythm guitar and bass work and chisel away with a sharp riff. My favorite song hands down. All doom fans should be hooked by this point in the LP, but there is more to digest. Certain hard rock legacies continue here.
For example, “Valley of the Lepers” is one of the rougher (coarser) and darker tracks. But it certainly has the tone and feel of a Deep Purple riff (a known one). “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” is acoustic laden. The percussion is bongo rhythm (a la Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan”). The atmosphere is pensive but softer. The string tone calls in eastern influences.
“Nightland” rocks with a Zeppelin swagger. The dual guitar harmonies bandying illuminate feeling and staggering talent. Magic Circle even utilize a gong smack in the middle of the track before a quiet rest. Radigan’s vocals are majestic and hits a few different registers. The second half of the song soars through echelons of blistering and layered fretwork leaving an audience stunned and enraptured. “Gone Again” is introduced with a Fender Rhodes organ which is seductive and calming. A smoky atmosphere lingers like David Holmes creating tension in a film. Bluesy riffs and Radigan’s vocals slowly plod as an alchemy of mist and forlorn tidings weep. “She’s Gone Again” he screams. Brilliant. The riff is a headbanging wonder with calculated drums pushing and pounding.
For just over one minute, Magic Circle provide an interlude. “Bird City Blues” starts with an acoustic offering to the Page /Iommi altar. Crackling noise and thunder rumbles underneath. Departed Souls’ closer, Hypnotized” aims to do so with a slow repetitive framework, guitar. The tone swings as heavy fuzz erupts joining Radigans howl. Its under 7 minutes is majestic but not as captivating. I was waiting for it to burst into a gallop. But as a closer, it works. It allows you to soak in your last hour of stunning musicianship – or you could lift the needle.
Departed Souls is a bold and successful venture for musicians who never rest or sleep. They are all talented and want to explore new instruments and moods. They also sometimes (in other bands and on Departed Souls) also can ride into a storm on emotion and grit. Killer riffs and excellent song writing show that Magic Circle are continuously improving.