While The Wizar’d has been finetuning their traditional doom style since their 2004 formation, their fourth full-length album sees them in a place of comfort. As with 2013’s Ancient Tome of Arcane Knowledge, Subterranean Exile plays like a cross between Pagan Altar and Witchfinder General. The former can be felt in the mystical atmosphere and warped vocal performance, the latter shines in the band’s bawdy approach to occultism, and the raw production certainly suits the retro vibes throughout.
Thankfully this album does offer its share of distinctions, particularly in the musicianship. Guitarist/co-vocalist Master of the Night proves to be a strong addition to the band as his playing gives the riffs some extra oomph while his varied backing on the choruses sufficiently evens out bandleader Ol’ Rusty’s more eccentric warbling. There’s also been changes in the rhythm section as Blackie the Crimson Heretic of a Thousand Eyes (Gods love these stage names) has moved from guitar to bass, and a new drummer has been found with Maniac Frodsham, but both roles are ultimately more supportive than standout.
From there, the songwriting sustains much of the preceding album’s straightforward nature. There’s an interesting sequence in the middle as “Master of the Night” (A song title and a stage name, nice!) pairs an upbeat mid-tempo riff with a memorable chorus that is followed up with an even more jubilant set of hooks on “Long Live the Dead.” However, the latter track ends up going into a speedy 70s rock climax with “Evil in My Heart,” sustaining that momentum. The flow isn’t quite perfect with “Ecstatic Visions Held Within the Monastic Tower” showing up as a midway interlude, but that track does show off the atmosphere that gets paid off on the closing “Dark Fortress.”
Overall, The Wizar’d’s fourth album is a natural codification of their traditional doom style. The group remains very rooted in their old school influences, and the songwriting can be somewhat conventional, but the hooks and musicianship are effective enough to make it an endearing listen for fans of the aesthetic. Subterranean Exile operates on a fairly standard formula, but it might be the most potent iteration of it that The Wizar’d has offered thus far.
“Master of the Night”
“Long Live the Dead”
“Evil in My Heart”