Author: Bloodshot Grub
Artist: Magister Templi
Album: Into Duat
Label: Cruz del Sur Music
Metal, and traditional metal in particular, has more than a few bands who write great music that comes packaged with… “difficult” vocals. King Diamond, Hour of 13, Gates of Slumber, Manilla Road. Sometimes bad, sometimes technically very good, but in any case requiring some degree of acclimatization. If the music is good, sometimes one simply has to accept that the vocals are part of the deal. They may come to be appreciated, they may be endearing, or they may simply be something that must be endured in order to appreciate the riffs.
Norway’s Magister Templi sit in the sweet spot between traditional doom metal and traditional heavy metal presently occupied by Argus and Atlantean Kodex. Their slower riffs evoke Candlemass, particularly with the exotic diminished melodies and other prominent minor seconds, all very fitting for an album thematically centered on Egyptian mythology. But it’s when they kick into high gear that the riffs really shine. “Sobek” especially has some great ones, but every song has at least one that induces mandatory headbanging. Not especially original, but classic, classy, and fun, across the board.
The problem with Abraxas d’Ruckus is not that he’s a bad vocalist. He’s idiosyncratic, certainly, and while there are some cringe-inducing moments–the chanting of “Ra!” in “Lord of the Morning,” for example, and you should probably just take a second to listen to the beginning of “Osiris” before reading on, because it will make your day–at times he’s very effective. He’s certainly dramatic, to say the least (more to the point, he is a Colossal Ham). But he’s so consistently out front, in terms of both his delivery and where his vocals sit in the mix, that it’s hard to listen to anything else. The music seems written with this in mind, with the riffs under the vocal lines clearly crafted to support the him without clamoring for the spotlight, but while Abraxas’s performance is definitely more endearing than painful, there were more than a few moments where I wanted to focus my attention on the riffs and just couldn’t.
The band is very good at framing the headbanger riffs with sections that are incredibly grand and epic. The energy that builds up in the former seems to explode upward in the latter, and when those moments include Abraxas, his melodrama becomes a huge asset. Other than that, the songwriting is certainly competent, but even after several listens, I never have a clear sense of direction. The ending especially tripped me up; despite its thematic role as a counterpoint to the opening song, “Destruction” feels like it would have been better placed at the beginning of the album. As it stands, it’s a huge buildup to absolutely nothing. Some of the songs have clear introductions (such as the aforementioned “Osiris”, and really, you need to hear this), but aside from that, Into Duat is primarily a loosely-structured sequence of excellent riffs.
I recommend giving Into Duat at least one full listen, all the way through. Given some time to settle and to acclimatize to the melodrama, it’s a fun experience, and I really can’t overstate the quality of the riffs. Abraxas d’Ruckus may be a challenge, at this point I couldn’t imagine Magister Templi without him and I don’t even necessarily want them to do anything different. It may not be perfect, but a somewhat flawed album with a fun and unique identity seems preferable to faceless riffs, however good.
Check ’em out here: http://cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com/album/into-duat