The traveler stood on the crossroads. One would be a tranquil path through colourful, cosy forests. The other would lead him right into moldy crypts where arcane magic was practiced. Little did the traveler know that he didn’t have to choose one as both paths would eventually merge into one anyway…
In other words, the previous works of Will Fried (or Ol’ Rusty Vintage Wizard as we’re supposed to know him) with Tarot and The Wizar’d culminated in years to give us to the new full-length of The Wizar’d, Subterranean Exile.
In Tasmania, a distant corner of the world where seemingly no real heavy metal culture exists, Fried and co. have been sporadically writing music in several different bands for years. One thing that is obvious from taking a retrospective look at these past materials is the growth. Talking about The Wizar’d in particular, the same ideas have always been there, uncompromised, but the song-writing and the presentation of those ideas evolved over time like no other. Pathways into Darkness was an album easily better than every previous The Wizar’d material and they even managed to top that again with Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge, not only the band’s best output until that time but also one of the best heavy / doom metal albums of the past decade overall. Watching this upwards trajectory, one could not help but wonder if they would be able to keep it up or Ancient Tome would stay as their peak.
This brings us to 2015, two years after the release of their masterpiece, the aforementioned Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge. They announced an upcoming EP, titled Subterranean Exile, which after a while would obviously not come out. The occult inspiration must have hit the Ol’ Rusty just right then as the never-released EP turned into their fourth full-length next year …that also would not come out then, until it finally turned into reality in 2020 anyway.
After seven years of wait in total and wondering if they can keep up the quality of latest releases, Subterranean Exile is unleashed. It is – in the usual The Wizar’d fashion – about half an hour long (not something you get to see often in the realm of traditional doom metal) and they have wasted no moment of this run time. Their signature guitar tone immediately rips open the album with the first riff just like opening moments of previous albums. The regular tribute to the old guards like Pagan Altar or Witchfinder General is there as expected, with a healthy dose of Tarot’s calm hard rock sound this time around. They also freely use the sped up NWOBHM worshipping moments, which make up some of the best parts of the album (even ignoring my personal affection for “up tempo songs on doomy albums by doom metal bands”). In contrast with their fastest and most heavy metal moments, the new album closes with their doomiest songs, which shifts the mood from Pagan Altar to Saint Vitus territory.
Overall, they actually managed to release another album on the level of Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge and it was worth waiting for seven years to eventually have this album. It is more than good enough to keep it on the listening rotation for years to come. It looks like Will Fried is not yet quite out of the ideas and future will hold more quality material from several bands he’s involved in.
For the new album, they joined the ever so strong ranks of Cruz del Sur Records, one of the strongest stalwarts of modern traditional heavy metal. Just like the previous one, it comes with the brilliant artwork of The Waning Gibbous.
…thus quoth the traveller, upon finding out the ways of arcane magic and serene forests converge into one dark path he must tread on, “the light of mercy has expired, the world succumbs to dark desires. By the sound of my call, the mighty shall fall as long as there’s evil in my heart.”
Album rating: 93/100
Favourite song: Master of the Night