Magni is the self titled release by Clint Listing (Voice, Guitars) and Ryan Michalski (Strings, Drums). Styling themselves as progressive folk blackened metal, they aim to marry a lifelong interest in the religion Asatru and their history of doing things in an unusual way.
It incorporates an almost synth like element into the EP and it instrumentally lays on the side of acoustic folk rather than the fast abrasive guitars and drums that the listener might expect from blackened metal. It does however retain the vocal style which leads to an interesting clash between instrumentation and the listener’s expectations.
Track one, titled Pagan Vastlands, has elements that remind me of Old Morning’s Dawn by SUMMONING, a tradition that goes all the way back to BATHORY. Long mournful notes stretch and carry great weight while Listing starts painting a picture that in tone grips you while his words carry you. It’s fascinating to hear this approach and it is executed beautifully. My one criticism of this is that it’s over way too soon.
Ragnarok begins retaining the same basic feeling but introduces a 1980’s feeling synth sound. Almost glass like it creates an icy, yet almost dream like atmosphere. It’s in this track that the harsh vocals are introduced where they sit just under the music. I’m really in favour of this. I think the temptation with lyrics is that after all the effort of writing them you feel the need to showcase them and in this case it’s really not necessary. You can hear them with clarity still but bringing them to the forefront would really take you out of the atmosphere.
The Watcher sees Michalson take a turn on providing vocals that sound somewhere between Michael Gira (SWANS), Kurt Cobain (NIRVANA) and David Gold (WOODS OF YPRES). The gravelly nature of his voice creates this unsettling tone that coupled with him repeating the line “I’ll just wait for you” really enforces a sad tone. He sounds so pained that it’s hard to not feel either some form of catharsis or empathy – maybe both. Although I suppose that is suitable for a track called The Watcher, a name that invokes a certain degree of powerlessness and longing.
The EP ends on Gold Fields, which retains the militaristic drum beat from previous tracks. The vocals here incorporate softer, whispered vocals that left me waiting for the big finale. There wasn’t one and that’s OK. I think the problem here lies with me not the EP or the song. I think you get so conditioned into thinking things should be this way or that way that you don’t appreciate it when something is different. I think MAGNI deserves a decent amount of kudos for not being pressured into doing things the usual way because I think it would have tarnished a really good listening experience.
I don’t think this is for everyone, if you like atmospheric black metal you’ll likely be disappointed by the lack of most of the elements that make that genre what it is, similarly for folk metal too don’t go into this expecting feelings of power or fun. It’s pretty unique, it’s a palate cleanser and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
Words: Jacob McCrone
Magni is out now.
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