Review: The Wizar’d – Subterranean Exile
Over the years, Tasmanian maniacs The Wizar’d have repeatedly proven their penchant for writing massive, catchy doom. Not many have a better track record—the band has put out 3 records before the newest, and each is excellent, with a history of influence from Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General, and others from the dawn of the genre, always standing in stark contrast against any and all modern trends within doom metal. All of this is standard for ancient wizard/songwriter/vocalist Will Fried, who leads The Wizar’d, Tarot, Dracula, and several other bands, all of them sounding pulled from the primordial stew of early metal, hard rock, and fuzzy, demon-slaying doom.
Prior to new record Subterranean Exile, The Wizar’d had evolved their sound to a point of demonic heaviness. Fried’s vocals took on a rough, nasally croon that bounced between demented and charismatic in the absolute best of ways. Quirky songs played off the early doom sound in a way that showcased impish delight rather than the grace or serenity that you’d expect from the regular comparisons fans make to Pagan Altar; the overall package was codifiably The Wizar’d, and that was what I expected with the band’s 4th record.
Instead of getting a repeat of Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge, the band has taken their time over the last few years to polish their sound into another direction. Much like Tarot’s Reflections, which took Fried towards a more mesmerizing and calm vision of rocking heavy metal, The Wizar’d have on Subterranean Exile focused on gorgeous melodic leads, more straightforward rhythms over the twists we got from previous records, and a somewhat less evil vocal delivery—more Terry Jones shines through, and less of the demented wizard. Past the guitars and vocals, the bass performs exactly as you’d want it to, slamming along with the rhythm section to give the band depth even in the most melodic sections. Similarly, despite a change in lineup on the skins the drums fit perfectly, carrying the songs through their durations with the perfect mix of hard hitting, rocking beats and a dynamic sense for when to perform a fill, when to hit a bit harder and faster, and when to let things mellow out. Each musician performs at their absolute best, and an overall sense of talent isn’t diminished at all by the music being doom.
Though fans who wanted a carbon copy of previous material may be a bit disappointed, the effect is absolutely stunning. Each riff delivers a sense of gravitas and dignity that’s almost at odds with how infectious the material is, with each and every song having choruses that remain stuck in my mind long after I’ve put down the album. The purpose with which each song develops is as impressive as the individual elements of the guitarwork, and the years of songwriting experience that the band has is obvious given the masterclass that almost all of the record is.
The Wizar’d have really upped their game across their last couple of albums, and if this is the path that Will Fried and company have set upon, then I’m all on board. This is my favorite record to be released so far this year, and Arcane Tome and the Tarot material remain other modern favorites of mine; these mad Tasmanians already made it to greatness, and show no signs thus far of slowing down.