Was the world clamoring for a soundtrack to Magic: The Gathering, or maybe live-action role-playing (larp) tournaments, and the rest of us somehow missed the memo? Well, grab your cloak, long staff and 12-sided die, and prepare thyself for local fantasy-rock outfit mOss circle . Led by veteran seer/songwriter Margot Day, the Northeast Kingdom-based sextet’s self-titled debut comprises an epic tale indeed, one fraught with peril, curiosities and, um, dragons. And rock-and-roll flute.
The journey down the hobbit hole begins with “Smoke & Mirrors.” Those expecting impish lute music or fey medieval folk are in for a rude awakening. It’s difficult to gauge an exact point of reference for much of mOss circle’s material. But if forced to do so at, say, crossbow point, the song exudes an early-hard-rock edge recalling Jethro Tull, while Day is presented as a latter-day — or olden-day? — incarnation of Heart’s Nancy Wilson. Or perhaps Blondie’s Debbie Harry.
Lyrically, the song plays out something like a game of Dungeons & Dragons. “Beauty is my master,” sings Day ruefully, then is met by the band’s elfin refrain, “And I am her slave.” “The fire dragon,” Day intones. “And his prey,” comes the response.
The Tull influence is more overt on the following track, “A Lifetime in a Day,” which features Day’s flute mirroring Cyris Bridwell’s attacking lead guitar before breaking free on a fluttering solo.
William Bridwell assumes front-man duties on “Chalice Well.” His thin, nebbish delivery is off-putting, especially in comparison to Day, who forcibly commandeers the reins at the chorus.
“Ride the Dragon” is a scorcher, and most representative of mOss circle’s overall ethos. Following a driving hard-rock verse fueled by Day’s “story of fire and glory,” Bridwell spins a wicked yarn in which a dragon annihilates an unsuspecting village. He’s like Tolkien crossed with a computer hacker. His impassioned spoken delivery is oddly gripping — and impossibly dorky.
And that kind of sums up mOss circle’s debut in a nutshell. As far as fantasy-rock goes, the band presents a lovingly crafted and mostly well-executed take on the genre. But said genre is a niche within a niche — probably within yet another niche, buried in a box somewhere deep in your mom’s basement. The band will appeal to a very specific audience. And gazing into the wizard’s glass, the prophecy here is that the audience will cling to them as fanatically as they would a Black Lotus MTG card … or something.
For more info on mOss circle, visit www.margotday.com/moss.htm .