Friday, August 23, 2013

Wizard Castle - Snow and Gold

Wizard Castle is the type of band name that just screams “this is stoner doom.” Surprisingly, the band’s debut demo is thrashy heavy metal and only the reverberating clean vocals meet the doom expectation. Aside from being momentarily thrown off by the name, there isn’t too much here to remember the band by. However, one particularly good aspect in the overall bland music is the singing: reverb on top of almost punky cadences that often terminate in soaring yells. This gives a simultaneous smoothness and rough edge to the music that pulls things together wonderfully.

Immediately, the band stumbles in the opening song “Bone Reader” by not including any of these strong vocals. Rather than an intro or instrumental track, the recurring gallops and plodding chord progressions make this feel like there were supposed to be vocals. When a song comes across as incomplete, it can’t make much of an impact. Another example of this is in the last four minutes of “(Destroying) the Hive Mind” which similarly lacks the vocal’s guiding direction. Wizard Castle needs more singing, and you can clearly hear how well the singing compliments the riffs in “Cobra Death.” This is a short song but has the best pacing because simple riffs are paired with vocal lines, and we have a solo towards the end. Such attention to structure is not something we have throughout the demo. Even the three and a half minute long song “10,000 Sword Salute” transitions from riff to solo and back with all the mundane energy and vigor of an accountant moving from number to number.

While an all right effort, “Snow and Gold” also is lacking in the production department. This isn’t just an issue of mere scratchiness, but rather a failure to meld instruments together. An inability to connect the bass and guitar together thins and guts the demo’s ability to be memorable. One way bands get heavy tones is through combining the bass and guitar. Skinny diet-guitars aren’t inherently a problem, but the band relies so much on heavy simple riffs, that they just can not cut it here. When listening to this demo, keep in mind that the band has two guitar players and a bass player, because it almost never sounds that way. 

This is mostly a production problem because of how the clean bass sounds disjointed against the guitars, as if it was intended to be used in a prog-metal band. Combine this with a Steve Harris style pop on the bass multiplied by three, and we suddenly have a really awkward rhythm section that distracts from the melody rather than complementing or supplementing it. Despite the production there is still a problem here - bass guitar composition. The bass is an elderly family member shuffling around the kitchen during dinner. Everyone knows gramps is doing something aimless, but they continue with dinner and he fades into the background even with his weird yet uninteresting behavior.

Most of the issues on “Snow and Gold” are things the band could easily tweak to bring future releases up a notch in quality. Wizard Castle’s biggest hurdle will be resolving song structure and composition issues, which unfortunately tend to be chronic.

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