Philly trio Wizard Eye issue their self-titled sophomore outing via Black Monk Records on Oct. 10. And yeah, it’s about riffs. And yeah, it’s about being heavy. And yeah, it’s about that crusty kind of vibe in the vocals of guitarist/thereminist Erik Caplan and bassist Dave Shahriari. It’s definitely about those things. But for me, listening to the album’s nine-track/53-minute unfurling, it’s even more about the roll. Not to say Caplan, Shahriari and drummer Mike Scarpone are entirely singular in their focus the whole time — it’s not like they’re doing the same thing over and over, in other words — but the overarching nod of Wizard Eye‘s Wizard Eye is so prevalent that no matter where they might go musically, it seems to unite the songs in a singular purpose. It turns tonal thickness into a roiling sludge goo and then serves that up chunky-style on a two-sided platter that, for those who’ve ever worshiped a riff, should be an essential pilgrimage.
Beginning with the thud-led noise of the instrumental “Eye of the Deep,” Wizard Eye work quickly to justify the anticipation for a follow-up to their 2010 debut, Orbital Rites. “Eye of the Deep” establishes the first of the record’s irresistible grooves and feeds directly into “Flying Falling,” which puts the bass tone front and center before slicking-out perfectly-paced nod-fodder, Caplan and Shahriari combining forces vocally as they do at several points in higher and lower-register gruffness. In addition to the low-end wah that emerges later, “Flying Falling” introduces another key element in the band’s arsenal — Caplan‘s theremin, which adds weirdo flavor to the late solo section and adds a spacey vibe to the album overall without actually pushing the band into space rock indulgence. Scarpone again drives the groove ahead on “Phase Return,” and Caplan and Shahriari alternate vocals between that song and the subsequent “Graybeard,” both cuts brought together by a foundation of swing that’s refreshing
for being so un-subgenred in its complete lack of pretense.
Front to back, Wizard Eye gets down to business. The maybe Corrosion of Conformity-referencing “Drowning Daydream” (they did have a song called “C.O.C.” on Orbital Rites) follows, drawing the listener deeper into an instrumental languidity that winds up with a touch more swirl than they’ve yet shown, but the oddball “My Riposte is Like Lightning” — the shortest track at 3:42 and even odder for how straightforward it is — snaps back to attention ahead of the semi-plugged nine-minute “Nullarbor,” which moves from early ritualism as it nears its midpoint into the record’s most satisfying march, announced first by the bass and soon taken on by drums and guitar as well. Caplan seems in conversation with the self-titled Clutch record in his shouts on “Thunderbird Divine,” but by then the context is such that the song is entirely Wizard Eye‘s — they’ve taken stoner nod and shaped it to their will, sounding jammy without actually doing much jamming, just chill, chill, chill in its beefy swagger and readiness to vibe out into a perpetuity undercut by the harsh reality of a five-minute runtime.
What’s left to do but close out with an eight-minute affirmation of method? Ain’t exactly like they’ve been screwing around the whole time, but “Stoneburner,” which caps, feels especially well suited to its position. It doesn’t quite speak for the totality of the record — Wizard Eye don’t really give it all away in any single song; it’s an album’s album to be sure — but in its blend of a virulent hook cast into some deep region of subspace on an internal wide-band frequency and how-do-they-get-it-to-move-like-that riffing, “Stoneburner” is a more than worthy freak flag for Wizard Eye to fly on their way out, Caplan returning to the theremin one last time in the final jam to give further depth to what’s already dug in far enough to come out on the other side. And in case I haven’t yet mixed metaphors enough to give an impression of just how trippy this shit is: rutabaga.
It’s felt like a long wait for Wizard Eye‘s second to arrive. Somehow, when I put the record on for another go, time doesn’t seem to matter at all.
Get yourself a piece with the track premiere for “Stoneburner” below. PR wire info follows. Enjoy:
Philadelphia psychedelic rock trio, WIZARD EYE, will release its self-titled new full-length this Fall via Black Monk Records. Recorded in three days at Haddon Heights, New Jersey’s Gradwell House Studios with the imminently irascible and talented Steve Poponi behind the board and mastered by Dave Downham, the long-awaited follow-up to the band’s 2010 Orbital Rites debut takes WIZARD EYE’s signature brand of mind-bending riffs and kaleidoscopic soundscapes to a new level of titanic glory. A fusion of bottom-heavy grooves, fiery fuzz, churning bass, otherworldly effects and raw vocals with roots still planted firmly into the lysergic soil of ‘70s acts like Hawkwind, Budgie, Blue Cheer, Captain Beyond, Motörhead and Black Sabbath, Wizard Eye shows the band operating at the pinnacle of its creative and musical abilities.
Wizard Eye will be released via Black Monk Records on October 10th, 2015 digitally and on limited-edition swirled vinyl.
Erik Caplan – guitar, theremin, vocals
Dave Shahriari – bass, vocals
Mike Scarpone – drums, percussion