Departed Souls, the third LP from Boston-based trad doom practitioners Magic Circle, is not only one of the best doom records of 2019. It’s one of the best doom records in recent memory. From the first massive, Sabbathian riffs of the title track, it’s obvious that Departed Souls is a record steeped in tradition and reverence for true doom and heavy metal.
Vocalist Brendan Radigan (also a live member of Pagan Altar) deserves special mention; his powerful vocal performance throughout the entirety of Departed Souls elevates the record from good to great, matching the power and intensity of his bandmates.
Decibel has an exclusive stream of the album alongside a Q&A with guitarist Chris Corry. Check them out below and indulge yourself in the timeless heavy metal below. 20 Buck Spin will officially release Departed Souls tomorrow, March 29.
The members of Magic Circle are all busy with other major projects, like Innumerable Forms, Pagan Altar, Sumerlands and Doomriders. Is Magic Circle something you work on constantly or in more sporadic bursts?
It’s pretty constant overall. If it’s a year we’re working on an album, we tend to really hammer on that and pull back from playing shows, and then once the LP is out we kind of hit the live shows more and there’s a little more time for other bands to be tracking or recording. None of this stuff ever really stops though, it’s kind of a carousel-type flow.
Magic Circle’s lyrics have normally been about magical, occult and fantastical topics. Is there a certain feeling or idea you attempt to instill in listeners?
I don’t write the lyrics but a fair number are inspired by books, novellas, movies, historical occurrences and things of that kind. Usually there is a real world parallel to whatever the subject matter is. I think it’s really about instilling a sense of atmosphere via the lyrical side of things though. You want the song to tell a story and Brendan is quite good at that.
Departed Souls was produced by Will Killingsworth. mixed by guitarist Chris Corry and mastered by Andy Pearce (Lou Reed, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix) and Matt Wortham (Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, Saxon). Some of these people are new to the process–how do you feel that collaboration went compared to previous releases
Will is a friend of the band since before we were a band and his studio is a really relaxed environment and an easy place to work. I engineered our first two albums but I just felt because there were some more ambitious arrangements on this album, it would ease the process to have an outside person who could concentrate on the technical aspects and let us worry about the performance. The songs were produced by the band still, but having Will to run the technical end was extremely valuable. Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham actually both worked on some of the only good Sabbath and Rainbow remasters and that was my reason for reaching out to them, but they’ve done so much. If you look them up, it’s staggering the catalogs they’ve been trusted with over the years. I think they have some upcoming Def Leppard and Rory Gallagher remasters. They were able to dial in the mastering so easily—exactly as we wanted. I feel like collaboration can really be a good thing when you’re working on bigger projects like this, so I was really happy to have all these people in the mix.
Did the inclusion of producers like Pearce and Wortham help Magic Circle achieve a more traditional or retro tone on Departed Souls?
I don’t think that’s really what they specifically set out to do, but my ear tends to gravitate towards older sounds and so reference points I was giving them were all ’70s and earlier-’80s records. I was actually surprised because it’s mastered much louder than any vintage records I can think of, but it doesn’t particularly sound like a “modern” mastering job… which is good. I think it’s better to not be time stamped for any particular era.
Members of Magic Circle have been involved with numerous hardcore bands over the years, namely The Rival Mob, Mind Eraser, Boston Strangler, etc. Have you met resistance in the doom/heavy metal scene because of your backgrounds?
At this point, everyone knows the deal and have made up their mind whether they care or not. Three of us have been in a bunch of bands indebted to ’80s hardcore and punk and have made a lot of records doing that stuff. That’s where we came from, but we’ve all always been fans of a pretty wide array of music. Heavy metal and hard rock people have been generally kind and I think, at the end of the day, the people that dig us know we didn’t do this on a lark. We’re in our ninth year as a band now, it’s our third LP and we’ve been really lucky with all the interest we’ve received. It sounds rote, but it really is about the music for us. I don’t care how people look or where they came from if they can’t write a convincing song. I think the people that dig us feel similarly.
Magic Circle as a band is pretty much absent from social media and rarely plays shows; is this an active effort to maintain a degree of obscurity or are those just not things you’re interested in?
Social media is like… I don’t really know what it can do for a band of our size. I follow a lot of big bands and musicians on social media, and if you’re Gene Hoglan and you’re playing a different place every weekend and promoting your latest endorsements and whatnot, it’s worth it. But it just seems silly to me for a band playing gigs less than once a month. I’m not trying to spam people.
As far as the gigging goes…We go through busy years and slower ones. In the last couple, we’ve added a new guitar player [Renato Montenegro] and written and recorded a new LP, so it’s been a lot of time woodshedding and getting him up to speed, not much playing live. We’re hoping to get out in front of more crowds in the next year. There’s no real effort to be obscure—if people don’t know where to find us, our label 20 Buck Spin can always kick ’em one of our personal emails. I’m sure he’ll be really happy I said that.