Review – The Magik Way: Curve Sternum

By -
  • Bio: n/a
  • Label: Sad Sun Music
  • Release Date: May 11th, 2015
  • Genre: Acoustic Black Metal, Dark Ambient, Occult Rock
  • Website: Visit Website
  • Rating (out of 10):

The Magik Way is a name that has lurkde the deepest depths of the underground for quite a while. The Italian group originally formed back in 1996 by former members of Mortuary Drape, only to break up three years later. In that time span, however, they issued a debut full-length effort titled Dracula (1797-1997) independently. It wasn’t until about sixteen years later that this project would be revived upon Sad Sun Music, issuing some of their unreleased material on the follow-up full-length Mareria occulta 1997-1999 in 2013. For 2015, The Magik Way return with a brand new album of darkly occult material titled Curve Sternum. But does it remain as captivating as previous entries, or has the time apart left irreparable damage in its wake?

While it does have a bit of a crisp production, Curve Sternum ends up a very intimate album rich with ritualism and emotion that has no major need for a raw or analog output. The acoustic guitars sound fantastic, helping the hushed vocal tones to sound far more personal and genuine. For the most part, the recording blends an acoustic black metal-like foundation into ambience, something that weaves some truly unsettling environments from time to time. “Corpi Pesanti” is a prime example thanks to its slower nature that starts off fairly cold, but has its hazy moments when the pace picks up towards the end. There can appear to be some compression issues on the drums from time to time as well, which can be picked up on with the slightly resonating in-and-out sound to them during the opening ceremonial strikes to the kit. The hooks get a little more vibrant, the rougher vocals add some extra harmony that gives it a sensation of a gothic era, not to mention addition keyboard notes that can throw the performance into the gothic style along the lines of Moonspell and the like.

That isn’t the only time that latter similarity can be found on this release. “A Curva Di Sterno” finds it present in the guitar work as well, though not so much some of the bridges or the electric notes that appear, such as those towards the end behind the spoken word segment. Entangled around those chunks are hazy bouts of commanding ceremonial rhythms that can be compared to a toned down version of the nightmarish beats on Cradle of Filth‘s conceptual album Midnight in the Labyrinth. But then there’s “Yod-He-Vau-He”, which is an odd specimen. While the music sounds like it were based on an occult ceremony, this one has a little more substance in a rock-oriented manner. There are plenty of hooks thrown about that only get more passionate as the track goes on, turning the trance-inducing folk inspired piece one might argue on the same lines as Korpiklaani into something like Santana writing a black metal album, leaving behind one of the most addicting tracks of the release.

The Magick Way

As you reach the end of the album, however, a lot of what makes Curve Sternum stand out seems to drift away slowly. “L’Orrore” has an ambient start of crickets chirping in the vast blackness of the studio atmosphere until just past a minute in when the guitars kick up. What unfolds is more like an epic composition executed in a minimalistic fashion through the acoustic chords and slow progression the drums. In the end, it just feels like an extended introduction that isn’t quite worth the pay off, begging for more time to expand on the Folk elements that appear by the four minute mark in order to better deliver. “Scuotiti, Oh Vita!”, however, feels more like a traditional eighties rock track in some ways, especially the deeper in you get, despite the surprisingly black-and-white depressive toll that exists for the first two minutes. Even “Scuotiti, Oh Vita!” seems to change directions shortly after it starts, not quite capturing that intimacy to make more of a nordic impression in the music that sounds stale and oddly typical for any bands trying to take on a viking-themed approach to their material.

While the closing isn’t quite as strong as how it all starts off, Curve Sternum still manages to be one of the more unique offerings to be bestowed upon the metal world in recent years without necessity of a gimmick. The best way to explain the music The Magik Way captures on this effort is to consider if Ulver or Antimatter were crossed with the Italian equivalent of Santana, all the while throwing in some random folk and even death metal ideals in the vein of acts like Korpiklaani and Behemoth stripped down to the bare essentials. Curve Sternum often sounds like you are sitting in on a ritual performed by a few people deep in the woods somewhere, and it’s a welcome departure from the blast beat driven or faux analog sound that is encompassing the black metal world today. Meanwhile that intimacy throughout makes for a great way to calm down after a stressful day. It’s great that The Magik Way have returned to bring fans and newcomers some fresh material, and, while not every track hits home the same way, Curve Sternum definitely makes up for the time they were disbanded.

Digital review copy of this release provided by Sad Sun Music.