Sometimes metal rises from unexpected places. Seemingly distanced from the res of the world and lacking a local scene in the real sense, Tasmania is home to Will Fried, the man behind pretty much every well-known contemporary project and possibly the highest quality heavy metal records label from the area.
The Wizar’d, with its peculiar spelling, is arguably his main band, just by virtue of being the oldest and with the most material. What you can find on the early end of their discography is raw and promising ideas. Young and full of passion at the start of the journey with no real support from local scene, Fried wrote a series of demos and EPs which then would lead to their debut full-length, Infernal Wizardry, four years after the formation of the band.
Mastering the riff writing and song building over time, the band entered Pathways Into Darkness in 2010. Spending some time in the dark tunnels and evil pathways, Fried and the others were finally able to uncover the Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge. The most recent stop of the band’s journey into occultism and dark magic, this album is the peak of their musical output so far.
Just like the previous album, Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge is a quick shot of traditional doom metal, as weird it may sound. With the album clocking about 30 minutes, The Wizar’d don’t quite subscribe to the idea of taking time and slowly building up to a climax like some other schools of traditional doom metal would. The album starts with a doomy riff attack and ends the same way. Six songs of occultism, blashpemies, and magic in the true doom fashion make up the chapters of the Ancient Tome. Galloping rhythms and riff-driven guitar solos are plenty. In that sense, one could call this album the mid-tempo heavy metal type of traditional doom sound, falling somewhere between the tempo of Pagan Altar and Witchfinder General.
The songwriting is rather simplistic and straightforward. There are no interludes or atmospheric parts – this is no-frills old school doom metal with no time to waste. Songs start off with the intro riff which is used as the motif of the song and each of them is built around that motif, expanding on the idea of that simple intro riff. Vocal melodies often follow the guitar work and they give way to the solos or the instrumental sections about halfway into each song before coming back in the end. The only exception is the fifth track, “Far Away Castles”, which starts with a mythical & magical melody accompanied by vocals for three minutes before the typical riff driven sound picks up again. Pros of this song structure is once you hear the intro riff of a song, it’s virtually impossible not to hear the full thing. The con is the album lacks the variety that tracks like “Frankie’s Dungeon” added into the previous record.
One thing that stops the album being very easy to listen for everyone despite the short length and riff attack of songwriting is the vocals. While I love them and think that they fit the occult sound of the band rather well, I know of others who are not impressed by the vocal approach of “Terry Jones taken to his nasal extreme”. There is an argument to be made about unique and passionate versus technically good vocals and in my personal opinion the argument is in favour of Will Fried, or as he is known in the band, Ol’ Rusty Vintage Wizard Master.
The album art, especially the full version used on the cover of the vinyl pressing from Buried by Time and Dust Records, deserves a special mention. The fantastic artwork has so many details, pieces, and scenes that listening to the album a couple of times won’t give you enough time to notice every single thing going on in that art. What’s even better is the artist, Waning Gibbous, is actually brother of Will Fried. Think about all the artistic talent contained in that one small family.
Listening to the band’s discography in a chronological order, it is easy to see how The Wizar’d improved over time, always getting better and better. Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge might be their peak point so far but the upward trend still implies that whatever comes next (and whenever…) has potential to raise the bar even higher. This next thing for The Wizar’d, initially titled Subterranean Exile, was supposed to come out years ago as an EP, which then turned into the upcoming 4th full-length, followed by radio silence for a couple of years. I have high hopes that whenever it is out, it will be a solid new chapter in old school traditional doom story of the distant land, touched by occult rituals.
Album rating: 94/100
Favourite track: The Moss That Grew On The Sorcerer’s Grave