Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Wizard Rifle - Here In The Deadlights (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 28/10/2014
Label: Seventh Rule

‘Here In The Deadlights’ CD/DD/LP track listing:

1. Crystal Witch (06:39)
2. Buzzsaw Babes (02:58)
3. Paul The Sky Tyrant (05:39)
4. Psychodynamo (08:52)
5. Beastwhores (07:38)


WIZARD RIFLE arose from the rain and gloom of Portland -- two malcontent twenty-somethings with a bent on creating something exhilarating and progressive amidst a scene of tepid dreamy pop, and redundant revival acts. Drummer Sam Ford is a blur of tom rolls, rapid-fire rim shots, screaming out harmonies amid the flurry. Meanwhile guitarist Max Dameron spews forth tentacles of noise, at times angular yet bizarrely groovy, at times psychedelic ambience, or purely crushing space-rock. The sheer sonic wall created by two is a sight to behold live, both members sharing signing duties and pushing to the limit of their abilities and ears.

With a sound rooted in a reverence for ‘70s psychedelic and punk, and myriad contemporary acts without ever feeling like a throwback, WIZARD RIFLE seeks to push the boundaries beyond reference points and obvious nods to rock idols. Still, they’ve commonly been likened to King Crimson, Lightning Bolt, High On Fire, Misfits, Karp, Melvins, My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth, Sleep and so many others. In 2012 the band released their debut LP Speak Loud Say Nothing to critical adoration on Seventh Rule. Teaming up with Nanotear Booking, they honed their live sound on several US/Canadian tours, sharing the stage with the likes of Yob, Church Of Misery, Black Cobra, Arabrot, Rabbits and Witch Mountain. Last year, the lads relocated to Los Angeles, and immediately started work on the delightful, riff-encased bruiser, Here In The Deadlights.

The Band:

Sam Ford | Drums, vocals
Matt Dameron | Guitars, vocals
David Bow | Bass


Wizard Rifle are much more than just a spectacular name. Their debut offering, ‘Speak Loud, Say Nothing’ had The Sludgelord basking in their translucent yet industrious tonalities. ‘Here In The Deadlights’ is an offering that builds on that striking first impression with a fistful of menace and an equally generous amount of dreamlike lucidity. Paradoxical, phenomenal!!

From the off, opener ‘Crystal Witch’ packs vigorous riffs drawing lovingly from High On Fire, with that same dark guitar tone that doesn’t need a cranked distortion to get the job done. The music is at times untidy and unhinged but it’s exactly that, which makes the album so voraciously fun. Take the raw anarchic bout of ‘Buzzsaw Babies’, itself pertaining a buzzsaw riff that grinds your ears in the best possible way. The shortest track of the record at just less than three minutes, its punk mentality hits you hard before venturing down a more psychedelic passage and returning full circle with a vengeance.     

‘Paul The Sky Tyrant’ whips up an almost boogie like frenzy – it’s a proper skull-rattler of a tune. Feral guitar work, drums that fill every conceivable gap of their sound, unkempt vocals roared atop the mix; their sound isn’t easy to ignore. But for all the welcomingly messiness of it all, there are flashes of a more solid, melodically pleasing brilliance at play: The outro of ‘Paul The Sky Tyrant’ unfurling a dash of harmonised guitars amidst the sludgy, early-Mastodon fashioned riffs. It’s Incredible stuff.  

‘Psychodynamo’ ploughs on. It’s a venomous sounding composition which builds to an uncomfortable and staggeringly powerful climax. The crescendo in question is a Melvins style jolting riff, preceding the record’s most memorable chorus and a barrage of tom rolls, discordant guitar work and a tone as nasty as they come.  Suffice to say, it has The Sludgelord enamoured once more.

Music aside, Wizard Rifle has a fantastic piece of artwork for this record. It’s a simple but highly effective image, the whitish grey of the skull against a heavenly blue sky, a powerful metaphor for their sound. For as manic and unrestrained as this is, they strive to add a fair degree of natural beauty to their deathlike grasp. On the aforementioned ‘Psychodynamo’ for instance, they emerge from bustling crescendos – from a wall of noise essentially – with a thumping lone guitar riff – the sky blue peering momentarily from behind the skull and clouds.

Closer ‘Beastwhores’ is as free as this band sound. Building on a rhythm section which could very well be Grand Funk at the peak of an acid trip, the guitars stab at you above them before the dynamics are dropped completely. When the vocals come in it’s like the soundtrack to some ancient sacrifice, a pale moon blotting the jet black sky as a baying crowd chants its way through rituals beneath. This is music to summon a Daemon of the most fucked up kind and we here at The Sludgelord live for such hellish revelry.  Their sound is a constant, incessant explosion of noise, of riffs part High On Fire, Black Sabbath and Sonic Youth, thundering drums and a growling bass that rages through your speakers like a cyclone, ravaging everything in its path. How this band can make such a racket is beyond me.

Come get battered in the torrent that is Wizard Rifle, you won’t regret it. 

Words: Phil Weller

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