Wizards of Kaos
Wizards of Kaos
posted on 7/2012 By:
Culturally, we turn to the past with nostalgic eyes to remember where we came from and admire the innovations which were important in their respective times. My scant knowledge of necromancy may be dredged from D&D, but that's what Wizards of Kaos seems to study. True, the animated dead are fun for a while, but move clumsily, lack spirit, and have little meat on their bones.
I spy a trend that bothers me: retro for the sake of retro, and this resurgence with wasteful, low-fi, degradable, expensive media. Vinyl is understandable, but all the clowns trading cassettes are clinging to a past that no one asked to resurrect. Why not pop on those old-school headphones with the giant foam ears while you're at it? Some act as if there were always recorded tunes, and not… y'know… music performed live by yourself or someone else. The point is, progress is natural. (Let's squeeze in one more analogy for all the burn victims out there—you don't need to smoke a blunt of shwag when a few rips of Sour Kush can get you there just fine; better for you, too.)
So riddle me this: Who has Canada given to the Stoner Metal realms anyway? Priestess… yeah, they're okay and getting heavier. Bison B.C. has always carved deep grooves as a Vancouver equivalent of Mastodon. Oh, and I really like On Borrowed Time by The Illuminati that dropped back in 2006… but have scarcely heard a peep from them in the last six years or so. So what's up, Big White North? Tech death is covered, you've got decent thrash, some solid traditional metal as well …but the stoners have a mere few dozen bands to currently choose from.
Wizards of Kaos is the debut from former sHeavy guitarist Dan Moore, who never crossed my path over the past couple of decades. Listening now, sHeavy strikes me as crossover riff rock whose vocalist sounds like an Ozzy impersonator, only twice as strident. But I think Moore got smart and figured out how to better work with the Kaos. Opener “Zeroes and Ones” dresses its forward-charging phalanx in a thick coat of fuzz and catchiest chorus, while followup “Bombs and Gasoline” finds Moore and fellow axeman Ritchie Perez trading more licks than lesbians on ecstasy, in a sweeter jam session than your grandma during berry season.
They say flattery is the lamest form of imitation (or something like that), and imitative is the word that just keeps cropping up while listening to the eponymous debut from the Wizards. For example, I keep feeling “Kickstart My Heart” when “Down from the Skies” begins. Or take “Running Red” where they ask “Take a look around you / Tell me who's to blame” and I don't feel focus on any front. Wait, what was I just talking about? I was going somewhere with this… ah, the riffs!
Sabbath-ness is a given. And in terms of modern stuff: Fu Manchu, COC (Pepper Keenan-era), Fireball Ministry, Nebula …you know the drill. But what I find frustrating about Wizards of Kaos is possibly what they consider their best quality—mutability. Not only do they lack a clear voice, but the voice they do have isn't singing anything I remember. To be both fair and precise, Moore's throat finds better balance than Steve Hennessy ever did in sHeavy, striking somewhere near John Garcia and… I [ugly] kid you not… Whitfield Crane. But you need the hooks to pull in the stoners, because you have forgetfulness and distractibility always working against you, and Wizards of Kaos creates little of that magic right now. Perhaps plugging into Electric Wizard could tap into the right resinated veins.
We all get retro once in a while. Hell, I'm watching another classic Canadian as I wrap up this review: Dudley Do-Right on the The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. And just like that show's animation style, stoner metal must have underlying complexity with a deceptively simple veneer. Actually, I was mistaken earlier—the Wizards of Kaos are currently conjurers, not necromancers, and despite the experience therein, still have much to learn.
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