Old Man Wizard; well doesn’t that name conjure a few images? I expected a battering of down tuned guitars, sludge laden riffs, and a fog of THC fumes to come rolling out of the speakers, and indeed for the first few chords, that sounded like that was coming. A few seconds later, this southern Californian lot confounded all expectations with a blast of pure pomp that sounded as if it had escaped the strings of Brian May’s own home made guitar. So, it’s not Doom then, it’s theatrical rock? Again, Old Man Wizard throw a curve ball with ‘Sorcerer’ and the acoustic opening that develops into some classic Prog that is descended straight from the music of such masters as King Crimson, and could indeed be some lost track that those giants of the genre found hidden in some secret stash of unreleased tunes. This same massive sound continues into ‘The Blind Prince’, some impressive vocal harmonies being added to the mix, the sub-three minute length being the only distinctly unproggy part of the composition.
The pace changes down a notch with the gently idyll of ‘Never Leave’, a song that has a rather sixties British pop sound about it, whilst follow up ‘Cosmo’ retains that same Anglo-centric sound, albeit moving a decade forward to the seventies heyday of ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’; I almost expected it to be followed by the hushed tones of Whispering Bob Harris singing its praises. Whilst a US band with all the available influences available, ‘Somehow’ sounds as if it is a track spawned from listening to the gentle whimsy of The Kinks at their most mellow rather than rather than the layered sounds of Californian rock. However, the band are not just strummers of gentle chords, as the hard rock attack of ‘Innocent Hands’ shows that they are able to up the speed and power, albeit the vocals remain light and almost ethereal compared to the blast of the drums and thunder of the guitars. The album as a whole closes off with the ten minute epic that is ‘The Long-Nosed Wiseman’, a title that positively screams of early Genesis, before they became turgid stadium soft rockers, as does the meandering nature of the song, complete with the ebb and flow of assorted time changes as the track builds up to one false ending after the other, the music growing before fading away, only to be rejuvenated by some more guitar wizardry.
The the ten tracks only fill up forty three minutes is a real surprise, as it would have all too easy for the band to allow each track to just carry on as so much overwritten Prog can be, and they are to be commended for keeping whole thing so tight. ‘Blame It All On Sorcery’ may not be the normal extreme fare that visitors to Ave Noctum normally feasts upon, and if you insist on nothing but the most kvlt and grimm of music, Old Man Wizard is not for you. If, however, like me you listen to a wide range of music and like a bit of Prog, this is going to be an album you’ll want to add to your collection.