Friday, November 30, 2012

Wizard Smoke - The Tickler (EP) (2012)

It would seem that the US has become the home for all things stoner doom, both in music and life. With marijuana being legalized in two states this year, with many more to follow, the culture is growing at an equally impressive rate. Enter Wizard Smoke, from Atlanta, Georgia. With six members in tow, they easily dwarf bands cut from the same cloth. And with a two song EP that spans over twenty minutes of smoky distortion and lyrics, it wouldn't be out of bounds to say they are painting a pretty large picture in the process. But where there is smoke, there had better be fire, something that you may spend a litte extra time looking for on 'The Tickler" and beyond.

The electronic aspect of the music is immediately on display in the opening to "Christian Cross," igniting an uptempo bit of psychedelia. The groove laden instrumental is interrupted only by a round of coarse screams that ma, or may not, actually fit the music. But very quickly, and without warning, the tempo slows to a crawl which sets up an entirely different dynamic between each of the moving parts. Between the booming drum beats and the rattling distortion of two guitars, you may be left floating on the layer of hazy feedback that emanates from your speakers. That groove that was so integral to the first movement hasn't disappeared entirely, but has moved backwards in the mix. There is still a defined melody to the whole thing as well, but its role is diminished amidst a more assertive lead. And, in typical stoner doom fashion, an extended outro takes over far too early and cruises to a rattling finish.

Unlike its predecessor, "Old Snake," has no delusion of grandeur. Right from the onset, you get a taste of what is in store. The vocals stray from the screams of before, and go for a more basic yelling pattern, devoid of melody or any real notes whatsoever. But as the song progresses, you do wander into and out of some more ambient moments, where synthesizers paint and entirely different picture than before, with a bizarre combination of dipping bass lines and thunderous, crunching guitar riffs. The only constant is change, with beats, tempos and levels coming and going at will. There are times where old Pantera riffs will come to mind, minus the raw power. And rather than coast to a finish as they did before, the outro hear is a ripping affair packed with crashing cymbals and solos coming from every direction. You are now surrounded by the music, as opposed to sitting in front of it.

Not everything in the world of music has to be complicated and complex to be good. I would venture t say that the old adage about keeping it simple is still applicable here. So, for me to say that Wizard Smoke don't do enough to keep your attention isn't entirely fair or accurate. But for two songs to occupy twenty or so minutes of times, an extra turn or twist every now and then may have been beneficial. Every second of the material presented does exactly as it was intended, and it is all done with the skill and gusto that you would hope for. But even more than that, it opens up a window, a door, and a wall for what comes next. If "The Tickler" becomes the foundation for a full length album in the near future, we might all be in for a treat. But standing on it's own, the cloud of smoke that follows it may have us questioning our place in the universe.


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