If you're a fan of '80s soundtracks, John Carpenter or the synthwave movement as a whole, then you're already a fan of Magic Sword and Endless. You just don't know it yet. If you're not, then prepare to become one.
Any Hotline Miami 2 fans kicking around the website? What about fans of Thor: Ragnarok?
I thought the second title might have a bit more mass appeal.
Both had tracks from Boise, Idaho’s rather enigmatic synthwave trio Magic Sword, who return to the forefront today with the release of Endless – a sprawling 11 song follow up to 2019’s Awakening EP.
It’s sprawling nature, might I add, doesn’t just confine itself to the musical format. This is a big, cross-platform work from The Keeper, The Seer and The Weaver.
Endless is a transmedia work encompassing print and audio; the album itself serves as a soundtrack to comic book, following on from Awakening, that sees the story’s protagonist, Tayia, next movements after “laying waste to the horde of corrupted Kihili tribesmen.”
As you would imagine with a soundtrack, the pacing throughout Endless is imperative. There is no worse a feeling than following a story only to somehow be taken out of the moment by a poorly selected track or something that overtly distracts the reader.
Which is one of the strong points from Magic Sword; they seem to be students of the very game they have created here. The opening track, “Depths of Power”, emphatically conjures those movie/video game intro sentiments as the comic’s panels start to pull you further into the continuing saga.
But what of the album as an aside to the overall package Magic Sword are catering to their conceivably rather niche audience?
Well, as much as it’s a cop-out to say music is a subjective art form, Endless is one of those albums that is going to be for a certain sub-sect of genre fans. It is undoubtedly a genre album – it wears its heart on its sleeve and makes no attempts to sway into territories that may appeal to a broader mass.
But as mentioned before, Magic Sword are students of this game; the undoubtedly ’80s synths are catchy but certainly not the danceable 808 sounds employed by Daft Punk – a comparison the band get, but admittedly one that is more an aesthetic comparison rather than an audible one.
It’s more akin to the works of John Carpenter, which is a fair comparison Magic Sword get. Much like Carpenter, the band have a knack for creating tension through sweeping moments like “Shores of Oblivion”, utilizing arpeggios both on at high and low frequencies, building a sinister undertone ahead of either a mounting crescendo.
Or completely subverting it to a more calm, relaxed moment, such as “Hope” – those elements that tease dread are very much hallmarks of Carpenter’s style. It’s what made the Escape From New York soundtrack a stalwart of both the synthwave movement and movie OSTs.
Not everyone likes movie soundtracks though, and much like Coheed and Cambria’s panoramic stories throughout their work, one can appreciate if people are put off by Awakening‘s and indeed Magic Sword grandioseness.
But for fans of a good soundtrack or ’80s influenced synthwave as a whole, Endless is a brilliant continuation of the overarching story Magic Sword are gleefully pulling together and almost flawless with how they have once again executed their vision.