Words by Rangi White
As the country wallows amongst the throes of a dead live music scene, a horde of song-starved fans dwell in isolation, waiting to be nourished by any new form of musical stimulation they can get their hands on. I implore thee, think back to an earlier time, a happier time, a carefree time (2017, I’m talking about) when Sydney I-Don’t-Know-What-To-Say rock band Magnus began working on their second full length album ‘Detachment.’ Fear not, ye hungry music lovers, salvation is near! ‘Detachment’ is on the verge of full release, (24th April marks the day) before long all 14 of its tracks will be exterminating silence and filling ears all across the country with highly refined, parameter-less rock and roll.
Launching straight into the title track Detachment Magnus presents their eclectic flavour of rock in all its glory, beginning with one of COG founding member, Lucius Borich’s effectively punchy drum beats in a When the levee breaks-esque’ intro…the guitar wails atmospherically in the back-ground…Blake Cateris brings in one of his typically kick-ass bass lines to kick-start the verse and Arne Heeres drawls a melancholically evocative phrase over the top. Dark poetry and deep vocals go hand in hand apparently, Heeres’ voice paints a macabre picture, inciting within me a vision of a Wild Wild West themed landscape but with Ford Mustangs and drugs and expensive sunglasses… “welcome to complete and utter detachment” he mutters as a bluesy guitar solo screeches into existence and concludes the track.
One thing I love about Magnus is their ability to emulate a variety of dynamics in their songwriting…I don’t just mean the volume, I mean that as in the differentiation between each song…take for example the second track Ever and Ever a short 2 minute acoustic ballad interlude with a pinch of narrative-like poetry that casts contrast against the high energy title track, and lulls you into a false sense of quietness before track three Forever and Never comes and breaks the illusion with its Queens of the Stone Age-meets-Nirvana-ish rawness. The third single off this album released March 27, Forever and Never is a standout contemporary rock track with playfully grungy overtones…I’m a big fan of the lead guitar tone being clean and crisp in comparison to the distorted rhythm guitar riffs, makes for a more honest sounding guitar section and is a testament to Wilsons ability to play solos without saturating himself in distortion.
July 2019 marked the month wherein Magnus toured the second single off the album (track 4) Humbugger, released the accompanying video, and it also marks the date on which I saw them perform live… aaaand was subsequently mind-blown. I do however notice a recurring aspect of bands with well-produced albums these days – they struggle to recreate the sound of their recordings onstage. Magnus have some big names involved with ‘Detachment’ – produced by 5 time Aria Award winner Paul McKercher, mixed by multi Grammy award winners Bob Clearmountain (Rolling Stones, Springsteen) and Big Bass Brian Gardner (Queens of the Stone Age, Dr. Dre)
Considering the stature of the production on this album I was pleasantly surprised by how true it stayed to their real onstage sound, emulated in tracks like Cottonhead (Track 5) Saints Sedated (Track 7, first single off the album) and Musk (Track 9) – all of which retain that onstage rock-n-roll rawness of tone, thankfully not at the expense of the quality of their song-writing.
I like a band that plays to their vocalist’s strengths… I see a lot of performers where their goal onstage is to outperform each other, rather than work cohesively in a group to create atmospheric timbre. Magnus is most certainly NOT guilty of that charge. They abstain themselves by showcasing their ability to write confusingly structured but catchy rock songs as easily as they write slower or softer songs, allowing Heeres’ to unleash his affinity for catchy vocal melodies as well as dark lyrical content and poetry-inspired verses. Songs such as An Affair to Remember (Track 10) and Lone Motel (Track 8) are great examples of where Heeres’ poetic/literary powers are unleashed…”You stand staring, longingly, down the hall, littered with preoccupied portraits of self-idolisation.” His darkly monotonous monologues invoke an irrevocable sense of loss, and describes the state of being one is left in after experiencing it, while simultaneously providing metaphors for the same concept – (sense of loss) – on a social scale, as well as personally.
I wouldn’t be able to conclude this review without taking a few sentences to pay homage to Lucius Borich – the percussion section at the beginning of Parasoles (Track 12, instrumental) is simply exhilarating. With his effectual abilities he summons vast clouds of sound that pelt rhythmic raindrops at those who listen…starting slow and ominous, it builds into a sonic storm as he incorporates so many different patterns and atmospheric elements with masterful intonation. Rolls and crashes, rises and falls, highs and lows, fast and slows, too much to focus on and visualise what the actual hell he could be doing with two bits of wood; all the while the band prepares to rip into the huge slow groove that dominates the rest of the track.
‘Detachment’ is set to be released on the 24th of this month, and to all those music obsessed gig-deprived lunatics I know are out there, I say to you get your hands on this album. Though it is unfortunate that Magnus cannot tour the release of this brilliantly crafted piece of art, it does give you all time to become familiar with the songs, and I’m sure once the prohibition of live music has been lifted, Magnus will be at the forefront of Australian bands taking advantage of the scenes lust for live music…to be satiated at last.
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THANKS TO FOOTSTOMP MUSIC