Sunday, 6 October 2013

Mage - Black Sands


Despite being somewhat behind on my reviewing lately, I've managed to keep things ticking over. I'm hoping to get back to being my productive self again from next week, in between getting things ready for the release of my first compilation, which will coincide with the third birthday of my blog. Enough of that for now though as this post is all about Leicester based doom/prog/metal band Mage and their debut full-length, Black Sands.

Black Sands was originally released via Witch Hunter Records in October 2012, with a 2nd pressing coming in June of this year. Mage have recently been featured in Terrorizer magazine in a piece about Witch Hunter Records and as I write this, they'll be preparing to play the third day of Fear Fest in Birmingham alongside This Noise Is Ours favourites Sea Bastard and Opium Lord, amongst others. Black Sands features ten songs packed with stoner groove and a not to the downtuned heavy metal that spawned metal as we know it today.

Tracklist:-

1. Cosmic Cruiser X
2. Degenerate
3. Rust
4. Danse Macabre
5. Star Born
6. Drowning Doom
7 .Surfing Temporal Tides
8. Witch of The Black Desert
9. Super Supremacy
10. Hulk Out

The thing that underpins Mage's sound is riffs. That's instantly obvious at the start if Cosmic Cruiser X. Mixed with the clean singing and the sci-fi vocals, it's perfect. All Mage need now is a Hammond organ, and they wouldn't be out of place on Rise Above! Seriously though, this is brilliant stuff and another diamond of a release from Witch Hunter Records. Mage write songs without the flab and obtuseness that people tend to associate with stoner metal. Degenerate begins as a mid-paced jaunt but picks up speed mid-way through with some fast drumming and up-tempo guitar. It's also more technical and shows Mage flexing their considerable muscles. Try as you might, you'll not be able to get through the whole song without headbanging!

The groove really sets in during Rust and they hit their full-on doom-laden stride is the second part of the song, where things slow down and march forth with some awesome bluesy riffs. Danse Macabre seems to blast past in no time at all. It's pretty complete in terms of textures and technicality, especially as Mage throw in their first guitar solo, which is pretty lengthy but it fully justifies that length by being epic. Before you know it you're at the mid-point on Black Sands, with the urgency of fifth track Star Born. Mage really speed through the opening bars before bringing the pace right back down to earth, with more of their doom inspired wizardry. Star Born immediately launches into Drowning Doom, which features an even grander solo and more of the same epic structures. This certainly isn't rudimentary; it's so much more.

There are moments of technical genius throughout Black Sands, which stand side-by-side with great simplicity to bring the album to life. The vocals melodies during Surfing Temporal Tides are so easy on the ear. Playing the same bedrock of riffs and allowing the bass to have its place in the spotlight makes the song sound huge. The production gives the album a meaty edge as well. It's not too clean yet everything is clear, while still having that stoner fuzz underneath. That sense of epic-ness carries through to Witch Of The Black Desert. The wall of sound that greets you after the minimal opening will get your heart racing. It certainly brought a big smile to my face. There are elements of desert rock going on as well as pure heavy metal. By the time Super Supremacy and Hulk Out end Black Sands, you'll be solidly converted to the church of Mage. Resistance is futile.

Mage have written a banger here and they prove that you don't need to write ten minutes yawn-fests too sound epic. Great songwriting and musicianship is all it takes and Mage have both in spades. Roll on the second album!

Blast Black Sands here:-


You can purchase a copy of the 2nd pressing of Black Sands from Witch Hunter Records here:-

http://witchhunterrecords.bigcartel.com/

Mage Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/Mageband
Witch Hunter Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/WitchHunterRecords

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