Sunday, 9 December 2012

Mage - Black Sands (album review)

Mage are a five piece doom metal band from Leicester, England.  'Black Sands' is their second release and first full-length album.  They play an aggressive and uptempo style of doom metal with stonerish elements that is meant to be played LOUD.

I'm not sure exactly how many deserts they have in the UK (I believe the answer is less than three), but if those deserts were littered with desolate graveyards, then Mage's sound would fit the landscape perfectly.  The rhythm is bludgeoning, the guitar is dry as a mausoleum, the vocals are sweaty.  Together they whip up one hell of a beer spraying storm creating a suffocating atmosphere.

The band moves through a variety of styles on the album from fast paced and fuzzy stoner rock to slow and crushing doom metal hitting on various other points in between.  "Cosmic Cruiser X" makes a great first impression, melding the styles together in a heavy, aggressive style of stoner rock / doom metal.  "Degenerate" ups the aggression factor and adds slow waves of pulsating crash to great effect.  A real headbanger's moment, more of a full body headbang that begins properly at the waist.  A great riff and excellent interplay with the rhythm section unleashes a deadly heavy metal funk groove while remaining distinctly doom.  "Rust" kicks things up into even higher gear.  The first taste of Mage's particular brand of slow, thick, lumbering doom rears it's evil head at the end of this track, signalling the doom to come.  It's an intense opening trio.  Mercifully, the band slows things down a bit with the Orange Goblin-esque "Danse Macabre" allowing the moshers and bangers a moment to catch their collective breaths before flooring it again with "Star Born".

"Drowning Doom" is a true highlight.  The band shows terrific restraint during the verse, then doubling and re-doubling rhythms during the chorus infuses the song with layers of constantly increasing excitement.  Once again, the band kicks up a beer spraying dust storm.  "Surfing Temporal Tides" lifts off from the desert and blasts into outer space with an excellent 'cruising' chorus that will blow your hair back in the best Hawkwind / Kyuss tradition.  "Witch of the Black Desert" picks up where the previous track leaves off in a slower, doomier fashion before building up in a mid-song instrumental workout only to gear down again and the effect is pure whiplash.

The disc gets progressively doomier from the straight stoner / desert rock sound of opening trio "Cosmic Cruiser X", "Degenerate" and "Rust", the band begins to showcase some slower material in "Danse Macabre" which progresses toward the end of the disc with the culmination of their slower doomier side in "Witch of the Black Desert".  The band reprises their more uptempo rock material for album closer "Hulk Out" which is a fun song, and any band that makes a reference to comics is a friend of mine.  It's the kind of song that makes for a good album closer which leaves the listener walking away smiling.

I liked this album very much the first time I heard it, but I like it more and more with each listen.  Every song is good and it feels like the kind of album that I'll be revisiting often and for a long time to come.  An excellent debut that finds the band navigating confidently through the fuzzier, stonier side of doom.

Highlights include: "Cosmic Cruiser X" and "Drowning Doom"

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 39:18

From: Leicester, England

Genre: Doom Metal, Desert Rock, Stoner

Reminds me of: Green & WoodLas Cruces, MaraMount Fuji, Orange Goblin

Release Date: October 31, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Take a test drive, cruising.  End up in the car crusher

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