Within the crowded realms of extreme metal, Rebel Wizard have managed to stand out. Whilst the description given to their music by sole member NSKV of “negative wizard metal” is distinctive enough, it sounds more like a gimmick or joke than something serious. And certainly, early demos being packaged in some very unusual ways – including in nappies – may have reinforced that conception. But the blend of black, thrash and classic heavy metal offered up is no joke, and latest album Magickal Mystical Indifference carries on that trend. There’s a huge amount of energy on display, and guitar heroics aplenty, all done with a knowing wink, delighting in the inherent absurdities of extreme metal.
Fans of previous records will go into Magickal Mystical Indifference knowing what to expect, and having their expectations met. Rebel Wizard’s music has always drawn heavily from the inherent energy and aggression of blackened thrash, with an added atmosphere that verges on the magical, and that continues to form the basis of the music.
This isn’t black-thrash as defined by Aura Noir or Abigail, but something that leans more heavily on atmosphere and the overall gestalt, both on individual tracks and the album as a whole. Each song on the album is a whirlwind of riffs and leads, with heavily distorted vocals with indecipherable lyrics, where what matters most is not any individual element but the sense of movement and wonder they conjure when combined as a whole. The lack of clear lyrics leaves the song titles to convey meaning, along with a few spoken word samples, that all walk the line between the profound and the absurd, with titles such as ‘You Are Being Lived, Dead One’ sitting alongside ‘Urination of Vapidity on Consciousness’.
It simultaneously invites and repels deeper contemplation, a loving mockery of the tropes of metal that presents itself as spiritual or philosophical. Is there meaning behind these riffs and melodies beyond the fact that they encourage headbanging and involuntary grins at the sheer heavy metal absurdity of it all? Is that closing sample – “it is always the false that makes you suffer” – a mockery of trve kvlt metal warriors, or the most profound statement ever uttered? Does it even matter? Magickal Mystical Indifference indeed.
What does matter, though, is that some of these songs feel like they’re slightly incomplete. There’s been a tendency on Rebel Wizard’s records for the beginning and ends of some songs to sometimes feel like an afterthought, as if they were inconvenient bookends to a library of stellar riffs and fist-raising melodies. That’s never been more pronounced that on Magickal Mystical Indifference, where the way songs can start or end with little or no warning can sap the album of some of its energy and momentum.
Taken in isolation it’s not really an issue; but over the course of 35 minutes it leaves the album feeling slightly disjointed. At the same time, though, the way it’s done feels so intentional and structured that it surely can’t be an accident, and the temptation grows to look for some deeper meaning in this. Is NSKV making a comment about the unpredictable nature of life and the universe, about how our human-made structures inevitably crumble in the face of the undeniable power of the cosmos and its mystical energy? Or does he just want to get to The Good Bits quicker? It makes Magickal Mystical Indifference an album that is as maddening as it is exhilarating.
And that, presumably, is the point. That this review has spent around 600 words contemplating this, going around in circles and tangling this writer up in webs of guitar-work that is as crudely muscular as it is gloriously transcendent, is something that will no doubt have Rebel Wizard laughing in delight. Magickal Mystical Indifference is exactly what would be expected from Rebel Wizard, and despite those issues around the ways songs can suddenly end, it is just as energising and joyful as ever.
Magickal Mystical Indifference is out 10th July on Prosthetic Records. Order here.
Words: Stuart Wain