Australia’s doom metal banner bearers The Wizar’d have unleashed their fourth studio album Subterranean Exile. It is unbelievable that this album is coming out in 2020, it feels like it fell from the late 70’s or early 80’s. Subterranean Exile has a classic doom metal approach that sweeps the cobwebs off the dimly lit, foggy path that was musically paved by doom legends from ages ago. As the path breaks through the thick over grown jungle of forgotten time it leads directly to the sound of Pagan Altar. This album probably won’t serve as a gateway to the genre, the flavors are an acquired taste. More seasoned listeners will appreciate how Subterranean Exile casts a necromantic spell of reanimation that swirls around the corpse of the early doom metal greats and brings them to a new life for all to witness.
Many parallels can easily be drawn between early doom bands and The Wizar’d. A few obvious similarities are the vocal delivery, slightly sluggish drum beats and heavy, mythical occult themes.
The Wizar’d brings the same tense, shallow throated, wavering goat like bleats that bands like Pagan Altar are well known for. Long time veteran fans of the doom genre will find the vocal style a welcome familiarity, other listeners ears may take a few songs to acclimate.
The Wizar’d summons a lumbering, half step behind, hobbled drum style that gives albums like Subtereanen Exile an almost imperceptible feeling of uneasiness. It makes the the listener feel like a slasher movie damsel trying to run through the woods from the blood thirsty killer. They can’t quite find their footing as the villain walks methodically after them unencumbered. Although it is subtle, this slight “behind” tempo makes many of the songs a bit haunting. Its a cool effect that was often employed in the earlier works of Witchfinder General.
“Subterranean Exile” opens with a raspy, chanting, guitar riff that repetitively lays the groundwork, calling forth the rest of the instruments in true doom fashion. As the pieces are revealed and coalesce they unlock the songs intricacies and melodies. It’s a good choice for the first song of an album. It introduces you to the sounds, invites you in, pours you a drink and presents you to some old, familiar friends. Metal heads who seek classic doom will see many recognizable cloven hoof prints on the shaded path through this album.
The Wizar’d cements their commitment to fantastic and occult themes in “Wizards Revenge”, the second offering on the sacrificial altar of doom. Whereas “Subterranean Exile” lyrically is a summoning of dark armies from down below, “Wizards Revenge” tells the tale of a sinister wizard harnessing those legions and setting them forth on the surrounding civilizations to reap blood and make war. This album is swarming with dark tales of evil forces being ritualistically brought forth and the apocalyptic deeds they carry out.
“Master of the Night” is where this album finds its stride musically. Although the earlier tracks set the pace for the dark quest the band guides its listener on, track three is where it all comes together. “Master of the Night” is probably the most accessible song on the album. It is the embodiment of the magic that the band has been channeling. This song features some of the most cohesive blending of drums and rhythm guitar on the album. It doesn’t sound contrived or forced, it flows neatly with an natural ease some other songs may lack. Strong riffage presented in a question and answer format bolstered by a short, bright guitar solo makes this song the best on the album.
“Ecstatic Visions Held Within the Monastic Tower” is a short instrumental vignette that structurally works as a brief intermission between the two halves of the album. It’s flamenco inspired acoustic guitar arpeggios and swirling sound effects build a feeling of mysticism and sorcery. It feels like it could have been the score for the scene in the first Indiana Jones movie where the Nazis open the Ark of the Covenant. The song starts slow, hauntingly ramps up, and then fades just in time to make way for the punch of the opening strum of “Long Live the Dead”.
The final three songs on the album are a continuation of what The Wizar’d set into motion in the first half of the album. Sadly, the second half of the album lacks a bit of magic and may at times come across as disingenuous. It feels more like a series of ingredients, and not a complete, fully cooked recipe. Perhaps an exercise in formula and mechanics, not inspiration. Although regular listeners of the genre may still find what they seek on this back half, those whose ears are unaccustomed to doom may find these final three offerings a bit lackluster.
The Wizar’d has a primitive, dated sound. Fans of Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General and Trouble will find a welcome batch of seven new songs to add to their playlists. The vocals are in line with what the genre dictates but could still perhaps be tightened up about a quarter turn. Good pacing, solid song execution and supernatural themes featuring the occult are successfully interwoven throughout the album. However, Subterranean Exile is definitely not a gateway album for the genre. Like many other genres of metal, this kind of early doom can be unwelcoming to new listeners unacquainted with its distinct particulars and aesthetic. The niche of old school doomsters whose ears are steeped in this music will no doubt find themselves donning their druid robes and holding their goblets aloft chanting hail The Wizar’d!
- Subterranean Exile
- Wizard’s Revenge
- Master of the Night
- Ecstatic Visions Held Within the Monastic Tower
- Long Live the Dead
- Evil in My Heart
- Dark Fortress