Tracing the trajectory of Portland, Oregon founded psychedelic stoner-thrashing noise rock duo Wizard Rifle these last nine or so years couldn’t manifest a more perfect forty five degree angle. From spastic left-of-center chunk rock freak-outs towards their stoner metal-whipped take on Lightning Bolt‘s greater impact (‘Speak Loud Say Nothing’, 2012) they’d landed on Seventh Rule Recordings, a hot plate for bands that undoubtedly have that uptick of concept, quality, and identity going on. In building upon the original feeling of ‘Here In The Deadlights’ (2014) the break, the big deal, and that next righteous step into the yellow light is their third full-length, ‘Wizard Rifle’, a defining moment for a band that’ve defied convention since inception. That lo-fi garage buzz of old now drops Wizard Rifle into the hands of enormous, texturally satisfying fidelity atop the eclectic world stage that Svart Records allows; No doubt they’ve risen to this occasion with a deeper melding of their influences that’d birth a bolder personality of their own. This third album can be considered a gift, an original set of five infinitely repeatable songs that defy any (entirely) reasonable genre description.
At some point in the last five years Wizard Rifle stopped forcing the sum of its parts into a blender and realized they could sew together any matter of rock and metal sub-genre while still retaining their core verve: Progressive rock, noise rock, stoner metal, post-metal, post-black metal (midpoint of “Funeral of the Sun”), psychedelic doom, and all of it is delivered in lengthy pieces that are never too convoluted or repetitive for their own good. These eight to ten minute tracks contain two consistent stylistic threads that are frankly somewhat arguable; The first is murky in its definition as post-hardcore or some ebullient form of noise rock a la their previously stated influences but the second is easy to agree upon as there is some element of ‘stoner metal’ informing the rhythmic heaviness that adorns each song. The combination of High on Fire‘s mountain climbing ‘sweet spot’ moments crossing over with with the frantic and ranting electricity of Lightning Bolt offers a vague picture of what to expect but there are several more layers to peel back. Steel Pole Bath Tub‘s ‘The Miracle Of Sound In Motion’ is a good reference for the dynamic freakery, the noise rock/post-hardcore spirit that crosses into the stoner grooves Wizard Rifle thrive within– The free-spirited arthouse vision is there but the mood is probably closer to Red Fang‘s last two records than any squirrely 90’s noise rock band I could whip out.
There couldn’t be a more difficult band to write about beyond personal experience as whatever description the first two minutes of any song would conjure wouldn’t necessarily describe the next four or five minutes after, much less the entirety of any of the five songs included. Dissection would defeat the impact and purpose of music so clearly meant to be ‘felt’ and entertained by. Enjoy ‘Wizard Rifle’ however you see fit but my two cents is that this record won’t benefit from the dissection of every living moment and this is coming from me, a fellow who’d task himself with minutiae as if it were some kind of virtuous act. No, the joy of this third full-length from Wizard Rifle is its turn on a dime, multitudinous sluicing of riff with ecstatic waves of desert rock worthy chorus and nigh progressive noise rocked-metallic freakery. It is a river strong enough to wash you away but not so brutal that you can’t stand with purpose and feel it rush past.
Ultimately I’d figure this is a band no less a multifarious talent than a group like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizzard but instead of spreading their oeuvre genre by genre, album by album into set stylistic boxes, Wizard Rifle are bold enough to put the work into represent a wide berth of interests in harmony; What? Well, Wizard Rifle must see many genres as equals in spirit or compositional elegance and with this galaxy brain they seek the connective tissues they share in common and sew together great strings of equalized ideas that flow together beautifully. The major differentiation between this experience, besides production/mix/master fidelity, and ‘Here in the Deadlights’ is the sense of continuous and interrelated momentum that never allows Wizard Rifle to soak into their many indulgences long enough to get bored. Each pool that builds quickly drains into a new tangent. Is it wildly memorable? Yes, but as with their ‘modern’ noise rock influences the theatrical journey of each composition is the ticket-seller not necessarily the blatant hooks– there are hooks across the board, though.
If you’re from the pacific northwest portion of the United States take a good 4-5 minutes (how about 7 minutes and listen to “Rocket to Hell” while you’re at it) and survey the album art with its collage of indigenous beauty arranged as if it were a ritual burial offering or some kind of paganistic cornucopic bounty specific to the land; Giving it a good stare might tell you more about how this power-duo think than I could by continuing to babble on about how under its spell I was from the first listen, much less the last 3-4 weeks bursting at the seams wanting to spill on and on about how it’d been enriching to see a good band develop into a great one that’d surpass expectations this time around. The Queens of the Stone Age-esque intro to “Rocket to Hell”, the sludge rockin’ stomp of “Caveman Waltz” that bleeds into a thrasher as it intensifies, the mathy bludgeons of “Funeral of the Sun” that build from glowing post-rock towards post-black and really… At this point the amount of standout moments each bout of fusion produces is beyond impressive. Looking past the ‘art’ of ambition gelling together so slickly, ‘Wizard Rifle’ is a satisfying listen, period. I was on board as a fan with the previous record but this thing goes above and beyond an previous material. Very high recommendation. For preview purposes they’ve released two singles prior to release and while the opener (“Rocket to Hell”) and closer (“V”) are vital to the full listen, the song that pushed things over the edge for me into greatness was “Caveman Waltz”.
Nobody’s gonna save us. 4.5/5.0
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