Wizard - Goochan
Wizard albums are about as innovative as their name suggests. They are a safely predictable power metal band that spins their own unique quirks for their albums. When you head to the record shop to pick up the latest Wizard release, you know pretty much what you are getting, just as any fan of Running Wild or Axel Rudi Pell knows. These bands consistently crank out discs that live up to their name, deliver in the same sound and similar quality. Wizard is a bit off the beaten path since they have not littered the metal world with quite as many releases as their contemporaries. Still, things don't change much between releases, but that's one of the draws for the band. You can buy the latest and not be annoyed that they are suddenly doing metalcore or some other fad fueled nonsense. Well, atleast most of the time.

The "Odin" disc was their breakthrough and "Magic Circle" that followed kind of fell into the cracks. After the rumbling that "Odin" had caused, the magic just wasn't there for "Circle". The disc was lackluster production-wise and flag waving promotion for it was just as lacking. It was like the record company knew that it could not match the buzz of the almighty "Odin" and they ignored it. But the sound was still there, solid as a rock and just as comfortingly familiar. Boundaries are to be pushed by younger bands looking to take it to the edge, or even older outfits that need the change to stay relevant. Twenty years and seven albums puts Wizard somewhere inbetween. A place where safety might matter more than trying to find wider audiences.

So with that in mind, the seventh disc, "Goochan", does follows in the footsteps of many past Wizard releases. It's power metal through and through. Its heart bleeds with double drum melodies and blistering choruses. The lyrics are drenched in fantasy lore. Yet this time they have shaken the tried and true formula just enough to deliver something a bit more interesting this time. "Goochan" is a concept album rooted in the typical fare of good vs. evil, fantasy mingling with science fiction. Little fact, but plenty of epic fiction. Just a glance at the song titles gives you a good idea of where the album is going. "Call to the Dragon", "Witch of the Enchanted Forest", themes and imagery that is as old as fairy tales and well known in Wizard's repertoire, as it is throughout the entire world power metal. Only now, songs and words are tied together using a storyteller's thread. Intricate needlework abounds to pull this together, tongue and cheek yet with a grave seriousness, and running beneath it all the reassuring tendencies of Wizard's past. Boosted by a shining, fat production from Dennis Ward, they are determined to bounce back in a big way.

The concept is an interesting one, the story surrounds the witch Goochan and her battle to save the earth from invaders from another leech-like planet. The armies are lead by "Pale Rider" (who gets his own track) and they assault earth with an army of Black Worms which Goochan must stop with her witchy powers of magic. It is definitely a weird combo of Sci Fi and Fantasy clashing at each other and was written by the bass player. This is the grounds where the album takes place and pans out.

Songs whip into progressive patterned glory for "Lonely in Desertland", an epic track of illustrious metal that weaves its magic as fiercely as the fire of the sands and the lonesome harsh wind that rips the grains into furious sandstorms. The dragon's fate is sealed within this breathless piece. "Children of the Night" is very much like a reworked version of "Warriors of the Night" from the "Magic Circle" failure. Midtempo thunder abounds here and its impossible to not tie them together somehow, being so sibling-like in name and sound. "Witch of the Enchanted Forest" has the slightest of modern touches. Otherwise it has the typical form of Wizard's music. Fast tempo kept in check, enough to headbang without breaking your neck and a sing-song chorus that sees fists pounding to the air. You've heard it all before, and it does a decent job of being a typical opener, adding nothing fantastic.

"Call to the Dragon" is rough and tumbly, growling and gory. It has the great beauty and power of a leathery lizard beast and lashes out with that old school metal feel. Claws beared and fangs at the ready for riffs slicing the rhythms with flaming fire and drums that are charcoal hard and burnt to an ashen crisp for the galloping grimness of "Dragons Death". This is like Dio track with wicked Megadeth riff thrashing and the double drum gallop of early Manowar/Omen, or you could just chalk it up to being something similar in form to the Iced Earth catalogue. Quite a fitting elegy to the poor dragon's life and the witch's lament. How deep you can dive into the story and suspend your sense of disbelief hinges on these two songs enjoyment. By themselves they seem like rides into cheeseland, but in context with the story, fit somehow like iron gauntlets.

"Sword of Vengeance" signals the last hope for earth's redemption and comes through the speakers like a raged whirlwind. The vocalist turns into a German Zak Stevens by slicing through the upper registers with ease and then dipping into a death metal like growl. "Return of the Thunder Warrior" is more sweat and blood from the forges of Manowar, crunching in a suitable midtempo and ravished with an epic style like shadows shaken from the heavier shrouds of Rhapsody's "Legendary Tales". A track that flutters the heart, uplifts the soul and pounds out the rhythm of your heartbeat with triumphant precision and a sense of accomplished sacrificial glory.

Most of these "themed" power metal albums have moments of cheddar to make you cringe, and "Goochan" has its fair share. The opening narrator is as embarrassing as the guy Rhapsody uses, in fact, it might be the same bloke that has popped up on some of their discs. The lyrics while doing a decent job of illustrating the story seem kind of silly at times. It's nowhere near the kind of horrible shameful trash that Genius is cranking out but is not going to be quoted in the future as a lyrical masterpiece. Also, it takes the story and runs with it for better or worse, causing chuckles at cheese and confusion at story gaps/twists with equal recurrence. Not all the songs are going to inspire you to swear allegiance to the Wizard warriors and toss your Manowar collection out the window. While advancing the story, there's nothing overly remarkable about "Black Worms" or "Two Faces of Balthasar" besides their rightful placement in the musical puzzle. The opener is too typical to be a stunner too.

Wizard's "Goochan" is more of the same, yet just daring enough to balance out as one of the best discs of their career. It is just as heavy as their earlier works, but has a mature sense about it that those earlier pieces lacked. The songs borrow much from their past works, to draw comparisons and similarities galore. Keeping enough of themselves to be not original, but familiar, enjoyable tracks of the power pursuasion. Fans of Wizard or power metal in general should find this to be a safe, interesting album that fits in nicely, not classic material by any means, but a real solid offering of rough metal in the raw. It's not Wizard's first concept disc, but will likely be considered their best (along with "Odin") up until now when stacked head to head with the rest. It's a relief that "Magic Circle" wasn't the death toll afterall.

Written by Alanna
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
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Review by Alanna

Released by
Massacre - 2007

Tracklisting
1. Witch Of The Enchanted Forest
2. Pale Rider
3. Call To The Dragon
4. Children Of The Night
5. Black Worms
6. Lonely In Desertland
7. Dragon's Death
8. Sword Of Vengeance
9. Two faces Of Balthasar
10. Return Of The Thunderwarriors


Supplied by Target


Style
Power metal

Related links
Visit the band page

Wizard - Official Website

Other articles
Odin - (Ulrick)

Band Profile and Biography - (Nina)

Interview with Snoppi van Heek - (Nina)

Thor - (Nina)



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