Welcome to the future, dear readers! Once again, we’ve braved a lap around the sun. 2018 looms ahead, and I get to look forward to another 12 months of somehow always picking the shittiest promos. Magick Touch don’t appear very interested in looking forward, however. This Norwegian power trio prefers to look back into the 1980’s, strolling along the edge of hard rock and heavy metal and exhibiting a sensibility for catchy hooks all the way through. Sauntering between the likes of Deep Purple, Van Halen and Boston, BDSM Shopping List takes everything you expect in a Top 500 Rock Album and puts in on spin cycle. That’s right, it’s time to turn the wheel of dad metal once again!
The first thing you notice upon spinning “Under the Gun,” the high octane opening track, is the band’s complete confidence in both songwriting and performance. With a rock ‘n roll flair straight from The Atomic Bitchwax, the hooky guitarwork and strong vocals bring the song home even as it’s weighed down by titular over-repetition. “The Great Escape,” with its Van Halen meets Boston vibes, fares better in comparison, making good use of the background vocals. Fans of fellow nostalgics The Night Flight Orchestra should pay extra attention to unabashed AOR track “Believe in Magick,” the catchiest song on the album by some distance. But the real highlight comes late with the eponymous closer, a mid-paced, heavy-hitting stomper that utilizes Middle-Eastern melodies and a wrecking ball of a riff, combining into a whopper that closes the album on a highly satisfying note.
The biggest problem, and one of the hardest to avoid for any dad metal album, is the amount of deja-vu the music induces. Although the album is completely cohesive, and the style is tight and well-defined, the songs are a parade of “where have I heard this before”s. It’s hard to define exactly what causes these resurfacings, as they’re not defined in certain melodies or rhythmic qualities. Furthermore, one can argue that those feelings of nostalgia are the aim (primary or secondary) of any dad metal band. But the line is fine and hard to read, between taking inspiration from the past and using it to craft an identity for yourself, and sounding like you’re copying the greats of old. Magick Touch has a tendency to walk the line unsteadily, and can’t always put their own stamp on the music they make.
It’s the strong performances that pull the album over the line, however. Particularly the lead vocals, which have a classic quality to them, a strong presence with just an edge of grit. Combined with the solid use of backing vocals in well-wrought compositions, the vocal section is a solid whammer. The guitars don’t slouch either: the riffs are catchy, the solos are solid, the sound crisp and defined. Actually, the production as a whole does not disappoint. The master is dynamic, and even though the bare bones instrumentation doesn’t give a lot to work with in showing off the layering, the plentiful use of stacked vocals demonstrate the quality of the mixing work. The drums sound great as well, a rich and natural sound that never gets dull or flat. Only a stronger bass presence would have been a significant improvement on the production work here.
Blades, Chains, Whips & Fire is a lovely little homage to the music of the past. It has the classically strong definition, the anthemic vocal style, the catchy riffs and the ‘hell yeah’ attitude music from that era requires, with the vocals a particularly strong point. The band does get a little too caught up in the trappings of other bands, and they can’t always differentiate themselves from the pack. But the music’s aim does not seem to be doing something brilliant or unique; this trio just wants to rock hard and have fun with old school music. I can’t fault them for that, and with an execution this solid, neither should you.