The United Kingdom is arguably the birth place of doom metal and the sovereign state has not failed to produce quality bands and musicians. Though one group in particular has cast quite a large shadow over the entire doom scene, particularly in the UK, it is almost impossible not to have high expectations for doom traffickers hailing from that side of the Atlantic, especially considering their lineage. Black Magician’s first release, ‘Nature is the Devil’s Church’, is a welcome addition to the canon of dark, atmospheric doom. Musically the band shares much in common with Dartmoor’s The Wounded Kings in that each band is capable of producing some of the slowest, most somber, affective tunes of the past few years without testing the patience of the listener.
‘Nature is the Devil’s Church’ innocuously opens with a brief, delicate piano passage. While “The Foolish Fire” doesn’t even surpass the one minute mark, it does succeed in suggesting that there is something sinister lurking just beyond the intro in pure Hammer horror fashion. “Full Plain I See, the Devil Knows How to Row” slowly builds from a wash of feedback, organ and drums, before reaching a hypnotic doom metal plod. Organ has been used successfully by many doom bands, but Black Magician has wholly incorporated the instrument tastefully into their sound. “Full Plain I see, the Devil Knows How to Row” could be the soundtrack for the damned souls of the Demeter. Birds chirping, a crow cawing, and a lone bell ringing signal the beginning of “Four Thieves Vinegar”, another brooding excursion into the dark chasm of doom. At this point in the album two things become apparent: the band is adept at concocting lengthy, engrossing tunes that are not strictly relegated to a crawl, and singer Liam Yates has a distinct, yet singular approach to his vocal delivery. The vocals are raspy and the delivery is unwavering, but it seems to work. For now. It will be interesting to see if Liam can imbue more dynamics into his delivery on future releases. The folk inflected, “Ghost Worship” is another instrumental that is upbeat and pastoral. Finger-picked guitar and organ are central to the song’s composition. “Ghost Worship” may be divergent, but it serves to showcase the band’s influences and act as a foil to the darker songs of the album. The fifteen minute epic, “Chattox”—a reference to Anne Whittle and the Pendle witch trials—appropriately closes out the album. “Chattox” unfolds slowly at first, but is spurred on with driving percussion and atmospheric organ. It’s an effective album closer that solidifies Black Magician’s grim vision.
It would be easy, albeit lazy, to pass Black Magician off as just another occult doom band. While the occult is certainly an aspect of their music, it has more to do with the band’s fascination with England’s rich, yet dark, historical eras. References to the epidemic destruction of the bubonic plague, flagellants and their mortification of the flesh, and the forced confession of witches are all fair game for Black Magician. ‘Nature is the Devil’s Church’ is a solid debut that incorporates a variety of influences. The band has surely put themselves on the map with this release and it has managed to stand out among some of the other great albums already released this year.
Words: Steve Miller