Red Wizard, Cosmosis: Universal Symptoms (Plus Full Album Stream)

red wizard cosmosis

[Click play above to stream Red Wizard’s Cosmosis in full. Album is out April 8 on Ripple Music and STB Records.]

San Diego heavy rockers Red Wizard make their full-length debut with Cosmosis, following-up a 2014 self-titled EP that rounded out with a harmonica-laced cover of Black Sabbath‘s “The Wizard.” That in itself should tell you something about the brazen nature of the band, and in particular, their interest in getting to the roots of what sonic heft is all about.

With the burly dudery of Travis Baucum‘s vocals out front, dual guitars in Miles Von Ricketson (lead) and Casey Lamontagne (rhythm), the bass of David Wilburn and Shane Kepler‘s drumming, they would seem to be arriving at their first album with clearheaded intent — but for all the booze — and what seems like it’s going to be a simple affair on opening track “Tides of War” becomes something much more stylistically nuanced as the record plays out its seven-track/37-minute course, remaining defined in no small part by its lack of pretense as it goes, whether that’s manifest in the proto-metallic three-parter “The Red Wizard Suite,” which closes, or in the more doomed “The Temples of Tinnitus,” which hits earlier. Rough tonal edges give a metal vibe, but the groove is heavy and Baucum‘s voice, though high in the mix here and there, as on “Tides of War,” adds a bluesy undertone that finds fitting accompaniment from his harmonica in the more swinging “Blinded,” which soon enough gives way to the 10-minute title-track; another on the growing list of vibes Red Wizard cast throughout their debut’s span.

That is, in fact, the album’s primary impression: Red Wizard‘s refusal to commit to a single-mindedness of sound where so many of their West Coast contemporaries find themselves leaning to one side of the “heavy” umbrella or another, whether that’s doom, stoner rock, psychedelia, prog, whatever it might be. The five-piece play multiple facets off each other in different tracks, and whether this is born of an exploratory process — i.e., if they’re finding their sound — or if ultimately that sense of variety will define their work over the longer term, it doesn’t really matter at this point, since what Cosmosis demonstrates aside from this breadth is that Red Wizard have the boldness to cover this ground while also uniting the material through atmosphere and songcraft.

red wizard

To wit, bass opens “Tides of War,” which then unfolds a rolling groove and catchy hook leading the listener into the album, but there’s a hint of something harder as well, and that will be the case as well with the biker rock revenge fantasy of “The Red Wizard Suite Part III” at the end of the tracklisting. In between, Red Wizard don’t think twice about the jumps in sound that the switch to a slower, drawling doom in “The Temples of Tinnitus” — near Candlemassian in its traditionalism — and the subsequent swap to start-stop swing of “Blinded” represent, let alone the psychedelic jamming that emerges in “Cosmosis” itself. They present the material simply, and on first listen, one might even mistake Cosmosis for a simple work, but while the bulk of its material is straightforward, the key to understanding it as a whole is in how songs play off each other stylistically, and that’s bound to come through clearer on repeat visits.

Further, the fluidness of the title-track, which finds Baucum echoing out a series of “heys” as Kepler‘s drums lead the way into the psychedelic jam, underscores the ease that the band feels on what, it’s important to remember, is still their first outing. Von Ricketson‘s guitar spaces out patiently in “Cosmosis” as Kepler and Lamontagne and Wilburn hold the tension in a classically heavy spirit, the band gradually building and making their way back toward a chorus, where the vocals are waiting to tie the piece together. From there, the move into “The Red Wizard Suite Part I,” the shorter instrumental “The Red Wizard Suite Part II” and “The Red Wizard Suite Part III” is undertaken with no more fanfare than any prior, the first part of the suite introducing itself with quietly progressive strums that just seem to be waiting for a flute to join in, and launching into a play between doomly roll and more forward-propelled rock.

Baucum shifting momentarily into a growl in the midsection before the song closes out with a big finish, leading to the Motörhead-style chug of “The Red Wizard Suite Part II,” marked out by its dueling leads, and finally, the “Symptom of the Universe”-style riffing of “The Red Wizard Suite Part III,” which mirrors the catchiness of “Tides of War” and offers an efficient if rough finish to both the suite and the record as a whole, the track kind of falling apart as it crashes out. Somehow, despite the ground Red Wizard cover on Cosmosis, that ending makes sense, as though at the end of a set, they finally decided to let the wheels come flying off. Fair enough. The brash nature of Cosmisis demands that kind of thing, and sets a high standard for the five-piece going forward, with multiple avenues of progression to potentially follow through, each of which hold promise in themselves in addition to how they might combine in Red Wizard‘s sound.

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Ripple Music

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2 Responses to “Red Wizard, Cosmosis: Universal Symptoms (Plus Full Album Stream)”

  1. Dee says:

    Material is coo, but why, o why did they use this Horrible artwork, not only does it set the whole mood / feel going forward, but it’s for fucking ever…. Apologies to whoever did it, but fuck it does not work at all….Not trying to turn things negative, just an honest opinion…

  2. Ianham says:

    The band is called Red Wizard and surprisingly we have wizard in red on the cover…go figure. Mad or what? Class album, class cover. Next time I hope they fit dragons in as well as wizards just to piss off the nature lovers. Alternatively just go for the full Frazetta (RIP) with lusty maidens and fuzzy swords. These covers always look better after flagon of mead, try it & tell me I’m wrong. If its good enough for Dio it’ s good enough for the mighty Red Wizard. Ps the album cover attracted me to listen & buy it, so it did its job .Nuff said.

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