Local Week: Merlin

Merlin make soundtracks for drug-fuelled cults. But if you’re not cool with the whole Mansion thing, their records still sound really awesome. Following 2014′s Christ KillerElectric Children is a doomier, more realized metal-opera. The stony fuzz and unrelenting riffs that Merlin summons from the netherworld roil perfectly under the album’s unfolding narrative.

Beginning with the one-two punch of “Bad Trip” and “Electric Children,” the album wastes no time establishing its scope and sound. Taking the best aspects of dramatic metal (think DIO, Black Sabbath, King Crimson) and the heavy distortion of stoner rock (High on Fire, Fuzz, Uzala), Merlin collages together a feel that is equal parts revelry and paranoia. “Electric Children,” in particular, teeters between euphoria and freak out in a compelling and novel way–blurring the edges between the two extremes.

From these two tracks, a sinister tale is spun. Waxing elliptical narratives and haunting moments, Merlin is able to imply an arc rather than spell one out, making for an album that is as enjoyable piecemeal as it is whole. Electric Children isn’t just a record that exists in the sonic realm. Housed on sea foam colored vinyl and including perfectly designed pamphlets and inserts, the album is as much a part of the physical plane as it is the conceptual one.

Around the midpoint of Electric Children is “Night Creep.” As stylistically close to the songs on Christ Killer as this album gets, “Night Creep” never fully acquiesces to retread familiar territory. With vocal melodies that surprise with their jerky back and forth between barrages and drones, the song moves quickly between tones. “Night Creep” matches its vocals with instrumentals that turn equally fast. Whereas most doom stays mired in a repetitive rhythm, Merlin creates and trashes riffs with efficiency.

Electric Children, while not leaning on its concept, never strays far from its narrative. Storylines converge and end, creating a cubistic impression of the lives that make up the lyrical content of the album. Whether you’re a fan of concept albums or not, Electric Children unfurls not as merely a concept album nor as an album of unrelated singles. Truly, Merlin found a way to collage the two aesthetics together seamlessly.

The album ends with the 23 minute epic, “Tales of The Wasteland.” Droning and bluesy, “Tales of The Wasteland” is a veritable solo feast–satiating all of us who demand songs take their time to unravel, who want squealing guitars over distortion heavied riffs, who absolutely crave subtle rhythmic shifts and melodic hypnosis.

Merlin again proves heaviness and hook need not be diametrically opposed. Electric Children is equal parts grind and catch. The album is a perfect for the neophyte of cult-focused doom and the aficionado alike. Pick up this local gem as a gift for the metalhead in your life (or yourself, I won’t judge).

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