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The Stone - Magla Review

by Mark Hensch

I have no idea what it is but I cannot force my ears to truly enjoy hearing this album. On paper, it sounds great; a Yugoslavian black metal band records an oldschool BM disc centered on the Slavonic paganism and folklore of their mysterious Eastern European nation. Released in 2006 on the Dutch label known as Folter Records, I was expecting something in the vein of Sammath's Dodengang album that the label sent me. While that disc was a surprisingly fun mix of haunting tremolo-melodies and blistering oldschool black metal, Magla feels like it is trying a bit too hard for BM master status.

Sung entirely in the band's native tongue about ancient and native beliefs, you'd think Magla (the Fog) would be some kind of folkish/nationalist BM outfit like the Ukraine's Drudkh. Nothing could be further from the truth; The Stone sounds much like a bland early-period Behemoth falling asleep alongside a tired Enslaved. As if hearing such distinct bands copied weakly isn't bad enough, the majority of Magla comes across as easily forgotten or even outright insipid. Few portions are memorable, and I find myself frequently looking at the clock to see if the run-into-each-other songs have changed or if I'm simply bored to tears. Not a good sign, and even after repeated listens, my mood has changed little.

The title track of "Magla---The Fog" kicks things off right away with some annoying nature/heathen ambient bulls*** that has absolutely nothing to do with the disc, followed by nearly nine minutes of fairly uninspired Eastern European BM ala Behemoth, albeit with better production. In fact, it is this sparkling studio finish which pisses me off most; on the one hand, BM and strong recording tactics are something of a paradox in terms, and beyond that, the band lacks gripping music to make strong use of the recordings anyways. "Magla" is a perfect example of this, with mid-tempo riffs slamming and humming pointlessly. There's no real atmosphere, just the slightest bit of puny groove and perhaps a bit of technicality. Some of the riffs are direct off later Enslaved, but lacking that band's sense of perfect timing and gradual crescendo things fall flat here already on just the first song.

"Zacet oca Arijia---Testament of Father Airy" feels a bit better, maybe because it is the shortest song on the entire disc. A mildly entrancing hypnotism of militant drumming and hook-y BM riffing might make for a listen or two, but this is nothing to cream your pants over folks. "Zakon sile, trijumf smrti---The Law of Force" injects a bit of thrash sensibility into the riffing technique, and combined with its unhinged tremolo patterns, it could have been a memorable song. The problem is that the Stone stretches it for far too long; what would have been a decent enough cut at a shorter length becomes annoying as its rhythms, melodies, and riffs are recycled again-and-again.

"Dok se blizi propast neizbenza---As the Destruction of Inevitable is Coming Forth" has some decent paint-by-numbers blasting, with an undercurrent of solid, cold riffs and the occasional harmonic worth checking out. At one point during the song, things explode in an epic bridge laden with chunky riffs and strong drumming, but it seems like the band can't maintain this momentum, switching into a bland period of open chords and then back again for no real reason. So much wasted potential....

"Pormor---The Plague (Silent Melody of the Choir of the Dead)" is the only truly impressive song here, the band again imitating early Behemoth and actually doing a decent job this time around. The riffs are energetic, the drumming furious and manic, and the transitions into new areas of the song both interesting and without obstruction in the way of awkward timings. It is a little frightening how something with just a little more effort and energy behind it can sound so much better than something of the exact same nature with less (see the disc's other songs) but this is living proof I suppose. Now, if only the disc's last song would end this well....

As you probably expected, it really doesn't do any such thing. "Mesecev zrak---Moon's Ray" has some promising tremolo-leads, plodding Slavonic fury, and muscular riffs. A massive BM breakdown later on sounds like a Skyforger knockoff, and again, the band loses points for originality and flair in equal shares. Even if I haven't heard this same exact idea done better by several other bands, it seems as if The Stone is content to play them technically without any emotion; everything sounds tired and flagging.

To conclude, I think the band's moniker fits them perfectly. A stone may be heavy, but that doesn't mean it moves anywhere or has the slightest amount of interesting activity to offer passerby. Magla is quite like that---yes, it is a metal album, but that doesn't mean it has anything to say. The band often seems bored or repetitive, with the songs running into each other worse than Epileptic marathon joggers and things as vital to BM as leads sounding out-of-place or simply done for the sake of doing. The greatest flaw in Magla is not that it is bad, but rather that it strives to be good but doesn't really get anywhere with the desire. Pass this one by, and check out bands like Behemoth, Enslaved, Drudkh, Skyforger, and the like, all of whom have either put forth these concepts first or played them much better earlier on. Magla is a dud!

The Stone's Magla*
1. Magla---the Fog
2. Zavet oca Arijia---Testament of Father Airy
3. Zakon sile, trijumpf smrti---The Law of Force
4. Dok se blizi propast neizbenza---As the Destruction of Inevitable is Coming Forth
5. Pormor---The Plague (Silent Melody of the Choirs of the Dead)
6. Mesecev zrak---Moon's Ray

*All tracks have been provided with English titles for the benefit of the readers*

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