Enter Haze Mage’s swirling stoner/doom offering; look at that album cover!
I originally thought that Haze Mage were an older band judging by the array of related articles I stumbled across upon researching this group. Googling the band reveals article titles like “Haze Mage – Chronicles Review” and things of the sort. Be it due to a hungover state or just lack of attention, I initially interpreted this as a review of the Haze Mage chronicles, that being their entire discography/history of the band. Anyways, this is all to say that Chronicles is the band’s debut and they haven’t released anything prior. I mean, I guess I wasn’t wrong; this is also technically a discography overview, but whatever. Are you still here?
Chronicles opens with “Haze Mage,” the band’s namesake track. Within the realm of contemporary stoner metal acts, more specifically those erring on the rock n’ roll ride of things rather than the longer more drawn-out variety of the subgenre, “Haze Mage” is your typical opening track. Purposefully clocking in at four minutes and twenty seconds in length (blaze it, bro), the track debuts the release in a more or less safe fashion, which is mostly expected. While the track checks off most of the boxes with it’s incorporation of “cool” riffs, great vocal deliveries, and a general capability of holding it’s own as a musical piece, the underlying flaws of this album immediately come forward.
There’s something off about various portions of this album. I’ll elaborate further regarding the album’s positives, of which the list is bountiful, but I can’t help but feel like the issues with Chronicles cannot go understated. Something about the inclusions here, mainly the point of crossover on “Haze Mage” between the main riff and chorus section, as well as the vocal placements on the chorus of “Bong Witch,” just don’t feel right. For “Haze Mage,” the chorus riff doesn’t blend well at all with the vocals. The respective deliveries of each portion are fine, the two portions just clash, and not in a good way. I would try to make a case for the inclusion if there seemed to be some sort of intentional effort to throw the listener off with a purposefully dizzying section, but it sounds like the riff and vocals just don’t flow together well.
The second area I want to raise occurs during “Bong Witch.” The vocal setup here revolves around the vocalist saying “tell me… bong witch…” very slowly alongside the music, which works splendidly, but then a third lyric is added (which changes depending on what point of the song you are), and on this third lyric the instrumentation explodes into a riff and the song goes off. However, this third lyric feels delayed? It’s hard to explain. I’m pretty sure the length of time between the “tell me… bong witch…” part is shorter than the time between the third lyric, so the vocalist almost feels like he stutters at this portion. Also, that riff I was talking about, which takes you into the next portion of the track, starts a split second before the vocalist starts the third line delivery, and the whole thing just feels a little off.
Now for the good news! The rest of these songs, and tracks on the album in general, are all fairly solid. The aforementioned two complaints had to be addressed, because they impede the selective tracks’ musical flow and general success, which is obviously something you don’t want to have on an album. Obviously the record is already released and nothing can be done barring tweaking the tracks in a live setting, but future releases will benefit from this criticism.
Favourite tracks include “Storm Blade” and “Priest of Azathoth,” but there are a lot of great numbers here. “Storm Blade” recuperates the listener’s energy for this album after “Haze Mage,” which is a decent number but the aforementioned quality certainly harms the album’s chance at being played all the way through, at least on first listen. However, “Storm Blade” sweeps up any potential doubts one may have about Chronicles, with it’s delightfully synchronized vocal/riff arrangements and general meandering fashion, which works really well. This is an energetic, fun, and otherwise enjoyable tune.
“Priest of Azathoth” is another track that is constructed very well. It takes a more doom-oriented style, that of almost bluesy nature at times, and really uses its longer runtime to the listener’s delight. I’ve been getting Graveyard (stoner/rock trio from Sweden) vibes throughout my playthroughs of Chronicles, but “Priest of Azathoth” is where these arise the most. Barring the vocal style and general song arrangement that feels very similar to the aforementioned group, the breakdown and subsequent sonic explosion at the track’s conclusion really reminds me of the Gothenburg trio’s music. There’s definitely some influence here. Unfortunately, I believe that some of my adoration for this specific track hails as a result of the prior number’s inability to maintain my attention. “Corpse Golem” is an attempt at a longer, doomier track and it just doesn’t do anything for me, unfortunately.
Despite the review’s composition, which might lead you to believe that I’d score this album fairly lowly, I actually quite enjoyed my time with Chronicles. Unfortunately, that’s all it will be, however, as I probably won’t revisit this record. There were some glaring flaws here which immediately remove the album from my future visit list, those being the musical/sound inconsistencies on a few tracks, as well as the sleeper numbers here and there. However, tracks like “Storm Blade” and “Priest of Azathoth” are highly recommended to add to your stoner Spotify playlists. Some things didn’t work here, but a lot of things did work. Give this a dedicated spin if you’re absolutely in love with stoner/doom and are looking for newer bands, but otherwise, I’d say to start with the tracks I highlighted and go from there. This isn’t a bad album, it just doesn’t do enough to rise above contemporary works.