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Hagstone : Ancient, Majestic

Hagstone should satisfy both fans of warhorse-charging Heavy Metal and motorcycle-riding rockers.

Now, here is some cool stuff. Hagstone’s EP 'Ancient, Majestic' walks in the door with a confident swagger that knows it has something worth paying attention to. The British fivesome stir up a hale brew, from ingredients including the requisite heavy and stoner metal base with a dash of American grunge thrown in, behind a visual presentation that at first seems like it wandered over from a power metal album à la Human Fortress or Virgin Steele. While the cover art put me in mind of second-wave Epic Doom, two things struck me in quick succession after pressing 'Play': 1) Hagstone is much more like a Scott Wino band than Solitude Aeternus, and 2) any disappointment from misguided expectation vanished before the sheer sure-handedness of Hagstone’s music.

Like Grand Magus or The Gates Of Slumber, Hagstone should satisfy both fans of warhorse-charging Heavy Metal and motorcycle-riding rockers. Slow but steady and lively guitar riffs groove over very energetic drumming, leads sing with obligatory wah, and live-sounding production provides adequate clarity without overpolishing. It’s a recipe you’ve heard many times before (imagine the energy of Iron Maiden’s 'Killers' at two-thirds of its tempo), but 'Ancient, Majestic' doesn’t feel constricted. Strongest points include opener 'Nowhere Child' and closer 'Burn Me Blind', demonstrating headbang-worthy riffing, some infectious guitar melody, creative songwriting, and - on the latter - a cool stereo drum sound (nice on the headphones).

The half-hour running time doesn’t quite maintain total consistency. The comparatively weak 'Like a Rat' has a decent opening sequence, then nothing memorable in its remainder. But dig the clean guitar lead in 'Not a Dream', also containing an emotive vocal performance by Gio, whose Victor-Griffin-reminiscent voice is by turns angst-ridden and forceful. 'Ancient, Majestic' certainly won’t change the Stoner Metal desertscape, but it’s clear to my ears that Hagstone are truly enjoying themselves. This is a warm and likable, if overly familiar, listen.

Reviewer's rating: 6.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Nowhere Child
2. Like a Rat
3. Moment of Clarity
4. Not a Dream
5. Burn Me Blind

Duration : Approx. 29 minutes

Visit the Hagstone bandpage.

Reviewed on 2014-02-20 by Mark Rzeszutek
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