Put to press less than a year after the band played its first show in 2010, the Superwizard 7” is the first official outing for Seattle fuzzsome foursome Ancient Warlocks. The band offer no excuses for their stonerly ways on the self-released Superwizard, instead riffing with Fu Manchu-esque abandon on the two included cuts, “Into the Night” and “Superwizard.” A smattering of demo tracks preceded that one can hear on the band’s ReverbNation page, and the song “Killer’s Moon” – very much in the same vein as the material on Superwizard – is streaming at their Bandcamp site, but the 7” marks a physical debut nonetheless and is limited to 300 copies, hand-silkscreened and numbered with righteous cover art by Eric Pruyn. The music of the band itself is rudimentary in its form enough to match Pruyn’s inked lines, and similarly minded when it comes to lyrics about space wizards and mysterious creatures. The single’s lack of pretense in being anything other than what it is makes up a big part of its charm, but if you’re into familiar riffs and grooves, Ancient Warlocks have plenty of accessibility and appeal for the converted.
That’s not to say the songs don’t have their own personality, just that it’s a personality that you – if you’ve found your way to reading this – already know. The band already knows it as well, and that works much to their credit. Bassist Aaron Krause (also vocals) and guitarists Dan Beloit and Darren Chase provide amply thickened fuzz, with Beloit veering into lead lines throughout the longer “Into the Night.” Krause‘s bass underscores the janga-janga shuffle of that song’s main riff, with drummer Steve Jones keeping the march straightforward on the hi-hat and snare, until after halfway through the song, there’s a slowdown and solo section from Beloit that brings a bluesy side not yet shown. Interestingly, that shift happens at about 2:50, and since Superwizard’s title-track is 2:54 and doesn’t have such a break, you could almost say the structures of the two songs on the single are the same, but with the extra piece added to Side A to bring it to about five minutes. It doesn’t offend, in any case. The release in total is about eight minutes long, so Ancient Warlocks would have to work pretty hard to come off as more redundant than they mean to be in that time, and they don’t.
For its part, “Superwizard” feels more imbued with low end, but that might just be the ultra fuzz of Krause’s bass in the beginning. It keeps to its riff, offering a change between the verse and chorus that cycles through twice before the solo section finishes with megaphone-sounding blown-out growls that feel as distorted as the guitars but are mixed low enough so as not to be abrasive. One might think from the faster pace of “Superwizard” as compared to “Into the Night” that there’s a punk influence, but it’s not, really. Ancient Warlocks keep to the straightforward heavy rock, and when the up the tempo, they don’t lose sight of that ethic. “Superwizard” is catchier than “Into the Night,” and the single is over before you know it, serving nonetheless as an engaging first offering from the band. If you’re hung up on the idea that stoner rock has nothing new to offer, Superwizard probably won’t change your mind – despite the capable songwriting and riffing of Chase and Beloit, neither “Into the Night” nor “Superwizard” is overwhelmingly original – but Ancient Warlocks execute the aesthetic well and with a clear reverence for those who’ve come before them. I reportedly wouldn’t be the first to refer to them as “trad stoner,” but the descriptor fits, so I’ll use it as well.
I’ll allow that maybe the titular similarity plays a part, but I hear something of Dozer’s “Supersoul” in “Superwizard,” and if that’s even a little bit the case, Ancient Warlocks are on the right track in terms of developing a solid stoner rock foundation. They have work to do, but the songwriting is fluid on Superwizard, and that’s probably the most essential aspect of all, and with that down, they should be able to flourish creatively on subsequent releases. Here’s hoping, anyway. Planet Earth needs riffs, and if they come with the tube-amped warmth that Ancient Warlocks are providing, all the better. Not complicated, but sometimes that’s just right.Ancient Warlocks, Seattle, Unsigned bands, Washington