This EP from The Magic Bus provides a brief but varied showcase for a talented band who aim to break down musical barriers. Blending traditional Greek melodies with elements of folk rock, stoner rock and trad metal, this EP’s four songs explore a vast musical landscape, but never feels in anyway disjointed. This is due, in no small way, to each of the melodies being linked by a strong vocal. Frontman Valentis Dafkos is in possession of one of those voices which is so big, it doesn’t matter where his music takes him; he’s there, with a very natural boom, sharing a volume that has as much confidence as the band’s biggest riffs.
The EP’s best number ‘Vassililki’ kicks off with a massive trad metal inspired twin lead guitar. The riff attacks with a real immediacy, making no secret of a love for Iron Maiden circa 1985. By the time the riff has played out a couple of times and been underscored with a slightly slower rhythm, it shows no signs of either weakening or becoming dull, but the band sidelines it to make room for a great vocal. Unaccompanied, Valentis delivers a massive Greek melody, and with the help of some huge harmonies after the first line, the traditional elements of the band’s music really shine. Bringing back the trad metal sound and some great drums, The Magic Bus then embark on a Mediterranean jig of sorts, which really shows off a fine musical unity, and the marriage of strong metallic backing and traditional music is perfect, even though they wouldn’t necessarily seem like natural companions. By the time everything settles – or more likely, your ears have tuned in – the vocal melody is every bit as catchy as the music itself, so that’s proof enough that The Magic Bus have a fusion style that really works.
A little different but also enjoyable, ‘Ghost Ship’ features trad metal sounds fused with more of a stoner tone within the lead guitar. The darker feel allows for a fat bass to anchor a little more of a groove, but between the bigger riffs, The Magic Bus take an even braver turn. The main thrust of the track features urgent spoken word passages set against a pulsing bass, and its here that non-Greek speakers will really lose out, since the mood seems to be quite edgy. Moving away from the intimate details, however, there’s still plenty of good music to enjoy: there are more nods to 80s metal – played impeccably – but when guitarist Emis Soultanopolous trades in some of the bigger riffs for a muted sound, The Magic Bus show a love of a more atmospheric approach which also works rather nicely. It’s easy to be drawn in by the guitars, but it’s here that the rhythm section (featuring Dina Arginou on bass and Paris Gatsios on drums) really lock together, showing the band to have a very solid core beneath the more upfront musical elements. This track isn’t anywhere near as immediate as ‘Vassililki’, of course, but time spent will uncover something that’s still very enjoyable.
In a musical twist, ‘The Whilom Me’ brings out a solid acoustic backdrop which allows for even more of a folk driven melody. Dafkos uses this very naturally to unveil a sizeable croon, but his performance doesn’t quite reach the heights set by ‘Vassililki’. Instead, this tune is driven by some solid bass work and an intermittent guitar that shares melodic metal sounds with almost prog-ish flourishes throughout. The main feature here also comes from Emis, whose choice of solo explores some fine melodic metal sounds, but it isn’t really until he chooses to place soaring sounds under the lead vocal for a big climax that each of the elements here truly come together. This is definitely the EP’s weaker offering, but even then, a few plays allows for some of its subtler moments to show off some fine playing. The EP is rounded out by ‘Yarem Yarem’, a traditional song given a Magic Bus twist. Released as a digital single in the closing weeks of 2023, the recording is arguably one of the more accessible tunes from the band’s repertoire since it relies on a repetitive groove for a hook, played in slightly more of an aggressive, almost stoner-ish tone. Beyond that, of course, the Greek vocal and musical twists will require a little more work on behalf of the more casual listener, but between the levels of fuzz being cranked up, an injection of speed, and a Thin Lizzy-esque lead guitar, there’s still a lot to enjoy.
In some ways, the absence of an English lyric could stop The Magic Bus having the bigger breakthrough they deserve, but in translating the songs, the material would surely lose most of its charm. It’s best to approach this with an open mind and open ear, and allow those big Mediterranean melodies speak for themselves – language barrier be damned. Between a very strong vocal style and a few great riffs, this material more than works on its own merits. The massive genre bending style will always be this band’s greatest asset, but in terms of playing and production, ‘The Uncharted Territory’ also presents something very strong. More adventurous rock fans should certainly check this out.