"Wizard Eye"

By the Great Sun Jester

Wizard Eye have been a fixture on the East Coast metal scene since their 2005 debut and their latest self-titled full length from Black Monk Records carries all of the trademark instrumental excellence and physicality defining the best of previous efforts and their well-respected live performances. This isn't a band afraid to challenge themselves and over the course of the new album's nine songs, Wizard Eye sets a new benchmark for what listeners can expect from this powerhouse unit.

The album opens with "Eye of the Deep", a monolithic and highly cinematic blast of guitar rock. Wizard Eye builds immediate tension with an introduction conjuring enormous nautical dread. This beastly stirring coalesces into aggressive, wah-wah driven riffing. The lead work has a surprisingly melodic edge and concerns itself with meshing well with the surrounding chaos. "Flying/Falling" begins ominously with scattered percussion and a fuzzed out bass pulse. In some ways, it sounds remarkably similar to the opener, but Wizard Eye peppers the song with a number of accents and outright variations that the song assumes its own identity. The vocals are reminiscent of Dave Sherman from Spirit Caravan and Earthride fame, but never imitative. "Phase Return" hits a similarly satisfying note and has massive swing thanks to a particularly effective marriage of riff and drumming. Wizard Eye might deal with relatively conventional subject matter for the genre, but their hard-nosed and uncompromising presentation imbues even the most imaginative flights of fancy with gutter-level realism.

"Drowning Daydream" has more diffuse, elongated riffing and doesn't bear down on listeners with the same intensity that "Phase Return" conjures, but it's just a different mood from Wizard Eye's palette. It's a remarkably effective bluesy stomper once you strip away the distortion and other genre affectations away from this song. The improbably titled "My Riposte Is like Lightning" dirties up the vocals, but the musical firepower summons up a claustrophobic descent into hell. The guitars seem to be constantly unraveling, falling somehow, and the plethora of tempo shifts gives the track a manic quality. When it settles into a groove near the end for a searing wah-wah fueled guitar solo, the effect is tremendous. It's like the guitars finally imposing their will over a previously untamable beast. "Nullarbor" presents another side of Wizard Eye's talent with its quasi-Arabesque melodies and lightly dissonant qualities. The second half of the instrumental is much more progressive than the first and introducing new sonic elements helps, in a significant way, to make such textural shifts convincing. It soon segues into a much more traditional, rock-oriented final section. The track isn't a clear-cut artistic victory. While on one hand, it's impossible not to find merit with their imagination and adventurous musical spirit, it's equally possible to find the running time of "Nullarbor" a bit self-indulgent in light of the relatively few melodic and instrumental variations it explores. Nonetheless, it's one of the album's most fascinating tracks. 

The album concludes with a final slab of elephantine riffing in "Stoneburner". Wizard Eye is expert in creating enormous, multi-sensory soundscapes that suggest more to listeners than they ever reveal. The band finds a slow, swinging groove and rides it out to its logical conclusion. The slide towards extreme vocals continues on the finale, but it's never so unintelligible that it becomes purely theatrical. Wizard Eye's latest self-titled release solidifies their standing as one of the best underground metal bands working today. They move within an identifiable tradition without ever sacrificing their own creativity. Highly recommended