A dark, oppressive mist is slowly, very slowly snaking from the waters of the Mersey River and twisting through the streets of Liverpool; a gloomy, gothic fog that threatens to overrun the city before setting its sights on the rest of the world. Not gothic in that cheesy 80’s sense, no, this is born from bleaker times…a Hammer Horror sense of the gothic, or maybe Poe or Lovecraft. Imagine the soundtrack to the dark streets of Victorian Whitechapel where Jack The Ripper plied his evil trade or the sombre atmosphere of Dartmoor where the Hound of The Baskervilles terrorized the locals.
Black Magician are the perpetrators of this demonic, nightmarish world as they take the core foundations of doom metal and twist it into an acrid smoke filled epic fantasy. Sounding like early Cathedral playing a Hammer Horror soundtrack, Black Magician take their slothful rhythms and mix in dank, epic riffs with spine chilling organ sounds that are both integral to the Black Magician’s wicked rites.
Kicking off with a minute long, spooky introduction the band pummel into the first track proper,"Full Plain I See, The Devil Knows How to Row", which introduces us to the band’s murky world as it grinds through nearly 8 minutes of oppressive yet catchy doom, topped off with Liam Yates’s tortured vocals before kicking into high gear and thrashing out to the conclusion like “To Mega Therion” era Celtic Frost. Yates’s vocals are worthy of note here. It is impossible not to make reference to Lee Dorrian as Yates plumbs his guttural depths and enunciates his lyrics in a very similar manner to the Cathedral front man. He does, however succeed in sounding far more authentic and less cartoonish than Dorrian suiting the music to a tee. An Ozzy copyist would simply have not cut it here, this is just a step beyond Sabbath in its vampiric world of horror.
“Four Thieves Vinegar” is over ten minutes of more glacial, crushing doom that follows on from where the previous track left off. When Yates intones the words “Bring Out Your Dead” it sounds for all the world as if the bodies may be subjected to some nefarious purposes and not given a true Christian burial. Interestingly the monolithic guitars of Kyle Nesbitt go far beyond mere Sabbath worship to create a sound that is built far less around simple riffs being hammered into submission and more around snaking, twisting patterns that circle back round on themselves to create a recognisable cycle…the effect is almost symphonic in its scope.
Nesbitt breaks out the acoustic for “Of Ghosts And Their Worship” which flirts heavily with pastoral folk without losing the dark occult overtones that feature so heavily elsewhere in the band’s heavier songs. When the keyboards float in one can almost envisage Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle leading the faithful in a merry dance in The Wicker Man.
Final track, the fourteen plus minute epic “Chattox” builds slowly from a soft keyboard intro and some tasteful lead playing from Nesbitt…something which is a rarity on this album and only used sparingly and effectively. When the doom kicks in around the three minute mark the track has left of the complexity of the other tracks here displaying its strength through a much sparser guitar arrangement that owes more to Celtic Frost’s slower moments than the twisting, weaving guitar and keyboard interplay they’re displayed elsewhere throughout the album but to no less mesmeric effect.
The album may seem short on tracks but it’s certainly not short on length or ideas and will certainly not leave any dedicated doom fans wanting. Alongside Undersmile’s “Narwhal” album this is sure to be one of the finest doom releases issued this year and should see Black Magician’s rise to bigger stages and higher accolades take a very quick turn. Buy the CD by all means but this album was mastered by Stone Axe/Mos generator main man Tony Reed to be heard on vinyl so do yourselves a favour and grab this as a slab of wax first and foremost.