Rebel Wizard’s Triumph of Gloom is one of those albums that on paper shouldn’t even come close to working, but, to misappropriate a sports cliché, music isn’t played on paper–that’s why you have to actually play the game. In this case, the game is to bring together lo-fi black metal and super-melodic power/NWOBHM, and then add a layer of samples from lectures by the late American Adviata Vedanta teacher Robert Adams dealing with the nature of existence to create something that lone member NKSV calls ‘negative wizard metal.’ Originally self-released digitally last August, the record was quickly picked up by Prosthetic, who are reissuing it later this month with the bonus track “Defenders of the Gloom.” Hopefully this means the album will find a wider audience, because it’s a fascinating mélange that can really only be described as upliftingly misanthropic mind-fuck of an album, and it’s a surprisingly fun listen.
The tone for the album is set immediately with the Adams sample that opens “On The Unknown Self They Weep”: “There is no real purpose for you being alive. Ponder this: there is no special, real purpose for you to be alive. What are you here for, anyway? Who do we think we are? We’re nothing.” From there, a gnarly black/thrash riff kicks in, over which he plays a killer harmonized lead straight out of classic Maiden. “Where We Surrender Completely to the Miserable Shaman” is two-and-a-half minutes pure second wave black metal fury, while the single “Trampled by Wolves and Sheep” pairs a lick that’s more than a little reminiscent of Maiden’s “Wasted Years” with some Venom-esque black-and-roll.
More than anything, though, Triumph of Gloom is a guitar record. Filled to the brim with fist-pumping riffs and flashy leads, the energy scarcely lets up during the album’s almost too-brief 34-minute run time. Actually, if I have one complaint with the record, it would be that it might be a little too consistently up-tempo – galloping thrash might be the slowest things ever get, and as a result the record is kind of a blur at times. There’s not a ton of variety in the riffs, either, which means a lot of the tracks have a very similar feel to them. The song “Hemorrhage Wonders” is more mid-tempo, but it rides the same riff for the majority of its seven-minute run time; it’s a cool riff, but it does get a bit monotonous by the end.
Still, that’s only a minor knock. Triumph of Gloom is a really enjoyable album that doesn’t sound like anything else out there right now. If you missed it the first time around, it is definitely well worth checking out.