Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Alchemical Mixutre - Dirt Wizard & Wizard Union (album reviews)

These days it seems like everything is beards, witches and wizards.  Well, those things are undoubtedly cool and far be it from me not to hop all over the latest trends, so I wanted to take the opportunity to bring back an old institution, the Alchemical Mixture, and I ask you, what’s more wizard than that?

Dirt Wizard - 'No Son of Mine'
From: Peoria, Illinois.  Highlights Include: "Season of the Sun"
and "Ged of Earthsea".  Rating: 4/5.  Released: Dec. 14, 2013.
Well, maybe these guys.  Dirt Wizard makes their home in Peoria, Illinois, but uh, you know, they could live anywhere they wanted.  Even on the moon, or even Alaska.  But Peoria will do.  An unassuming kind of place, where none would suspect wizards dwell.  But that’s the beauty of the world, that there are secret wizards and witches all over the place.  As you walk or drive down the sleepy roads of suburbia and you happen to glance or even stare into a living room window on your way past, you truly don’t know who or what you’re looking at.  I for one assume everybody is some form of deviant or other, Dirt Wizard is the magical kind.

Their five song E.P., ‘No Son of Mine’ stays on an even keel, keeping the listener under a consistent spell of stoned wizardry in the vein of Seattle’s Ancient Warlocks or their Northern neighbors Black Wizard.  It’s a crash heavy linear fuzz ride with killer harmonies which gives the music a sense of speed and motion.  Opener “Amis Tabu”, “Ged of Earthsea” and “Season of the Sun” are all jacketed in the warmth of close harmony, which edges tantalizingly close to the edge of dischord by sliding Alice in Chains-style into minor chords.  It’s still a great trick to pull off.  Uh, I mean … illusion! 

Without a doubt, the band’s crowning achievement is the last song of the collection.  "Season of the Sun" is an apocalypse in the sun.  Cacophonic guitars and crashing drums mingle with a top down cruising down the empty highway feel brought about by the bright vocal harmonies, feet up, nuclear wind blowing through your hair.  Feel-wise, it’s like the inverse of Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral”.

‘No Son of Mine’ is a solid listen, though at 22 minutes I hesitate to call it truly satisfying.  But, it’s an incredibly promising debut and you get the sense that Dirt Wizard has an amazing album or two up their giant, billowy sleeve.

Wizard Union - 'Smoking Coffins'
From: Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Highlights Include: "Thoth Amon" and 
"Into the Wizard's Sleeve".  Rating: 4.5/5.  Released: Jan. 8, 2013.
Ann Arbor, Michigan’s three-piece Wizard Union has a fuzz-first mentality with chunky riffs which choke off any attempt for melody to flower and grow into anything other than a quick turnaround.  This band reminds me of a stateside cousin of Brighton, UK’s March the Desert.  Wizard Union will flood your mind with fuzz and for my money have instantly established themselves as one of America’s heaviest bands.

It’s a label they don’t shy away from.  The song “Thoth Amon” showcases the band’s Conan-literate side.  It’s a fair association to mix themselves up with.  Wizard Union won’t dazzle you with glittering steel and rippling, oiled muscles.  Instead it’s the dull-edged stone axe which does more damage with the impact of its blade, rather than its cutting edge.

Wizard Union will leave you knock you into next week, concussed, groggy and confused.  The fuzz is thick and meaty, the vocals are gristly and weighing in at a lean 6 songs and 23 minutes, there’s very little fat here, but there’s just enough to add a little flavor.  Wizard Union are a mixture of all the good things in life, Black Sabbath, Howard’s Conan (as depicted by Frank Frazetta of course, or possibly Boris Vallejo and best seen on the side of a rockin’ van) and plus-sized heaviness.  I’ll be back for me, whenever local #420 re-convenes, I’ll be proud to say I support this union.  You can support both these bands by clicking the links on the players below.

Seems like, these days, it would be a rather large union.  At one time, it was a sandbox that the pixie-like Marc Bolan basically had all to himself.  Now, you just can’t get away from wizard rock.  Just to give you an idea of how many witch and wizard themed/named bands there are out there I present this dry list.  Try to imagine it as a wizard’s spell scroll.

Stoned Witch & Wizard roll-call:
Acid Witch
Ancient Warlocks
Arkham Witch
Bell Witch
Black Magician
Black Wizard
Blackwitch Pudding
Dirt Wizard
Earth Witch
Electric Wizard
Glitter Wizard
Lizzard Wizzard
Magister Templi
Mountain Witch
Old Man Wizard
Red Wizard
Space Witch
Ten Foot Wizard
Witch Charmer
Witch Mountain
Witch Rider
Witches of God
Witching Altar
Wizard Smoke
Wizard Union

And these are just the good bands (the ones that I know of that is), there’s a whole world out there of mediocre bands all dying to bring down the wizard name.

Dirt Wizard on facebook
Wizard Union on facebook

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