Magic Circle has always had a seventies undercurrent lurking behind their bludgeoning traditional doom style, but their third full-length album, Departed Souls really pushes it up to the forefront. The title track and “I’ve Found My Way to Die” establish this from the get-go as the guitar tone shows off some crisp muscle without getting too abrasive while the Ozzy-esque vocal delivery seems more upfront and manic than before. It’s most certainly an attempt at getting to those sweet Sabbath roots but it honestly reminds me of Mos Generator more than anything else.
And as expected with an album aiming for greater psychedelia, Departed Souls has its share of stylistic curveballs. “A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares” plays like an Indian answer to “Planet Caravan” with its exotic guitar work, hand percussion, and dreamy vocal effects. “Gone Again” also stands out for its more subdued riff patterns flavored by some intermingling organ work and the possibly banjo meandering on the brief “Bird City Blues” sounds like something that’d pop up on Led Zeppelin III.
But if you squint, you can still see remnants of their traditional doom past strewn about. “Valley of the Lepers” makes for the most obvious example of this at work though the melodic tinges give those descending dirges a different flavor than before. It’s also easy to imagine the drawn-out chords on the closing “Hypnotized” in a more crushing context, but the grungy blues slow burn results in what may be the album’s strongest track.
While each of Magic Circle’s three albums carries a distinct flavor, Departed Souls is an incredibly drastic evolution. Pushing the group’s doom tendencies back in favor of an almost sunny hard rock format may have a jarring effect for acquainted listeners, but the writing is strong, and the musicianship is hefty enough to keep this from turning into a total nostalgia trip. It’ll be interesting to see where the band goes from here, but this is definitely worth checking out if you like your Sabbath extra Bloody.
“A Day Will Dawn Without Nightmares”