Mage - Black SandsStoner rock, however gnarly and fucked up it gets is always kind of welcoming and comforting for most hard rock fans. You can sit back and be sure of some meaty guitar grooves and some enjoyably bad attitudes. And so it proves with Nottingham five-piece Mage‘s sophomore album “Black Sands”. It launches with ‘Cosmic Cruiser X’ , a slinky space rocker with a trusty riff you could hang your leather space suit off. You know you’re in for good trip even if the landscape is familiar.

Perhaps slightly unusually for stoner rock, Mage‘s sound is based on the post-thrash crunch of 90’s Metallica rather than 70’s psychedelic aggression. This is immediately obvious on next track ‘Degenerate’. Again blessed with riffs so sturdy and smile-inducing it’s like being cuddled by an amorous bear. Add some humorous lyrics and you have everything you want from this genre. ‘Rust’ slows it down to add some doom to the mix before things take a darker turn in ‘Danse Macabre’. Evil hangs heavy in the air, vaguely similar in feel to Motorhead‘s ‘Orgasmatron’ but without the theatricality. It ends with an absolute killer guitar fade out, sealing it’s status as an album highlight.

‘Star Born’ takes the Metallica influence back a generation and harks back to Diamond Head in their pomp. It’s over just as the smile of appreciation begins to make your face ache. That one should have gone on for a bit longer guys!

On first listen ‘Drowning Doom’ lacks the quality of earlier tracks but proves to be another slower dramatic doom work out and a real grower. ‘Surfing Temporal Tides’ pinches a Hawkwind riff , a James Hatfield growl and a wonderful Tony Iommi-esque guitar solo and along with next track ‘Witch of the Black Desert’ attempts to take Mage somewhere more widescreen and epic. This is the kind of stuff The Sword do so well, and Mage are getting there.

Last two numbers ‘Super Supremacy’ and ‘Hulk Out’ bring to mind the other great titans of stoner, Monster Magnet. Cocky, tongue in cheek and thrusting, they are a fun end to proceedings , back to comfortably greasy rock to seduce your ears and hips.

This album is fun and surprisingly sophisticated at times. Special mention must go to the classy soloing of Mssrs. Ben and Woody who raise the quality of these tunes with thrilling dexterity and feel. This is a genuinely fine addition to the stoner rock canon….and they’re British to boot!

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