Wizard Rifle–Speak Loud Say Nothing
Wizard Rifle are an extraordinary, two-piece, ruckus-making outfit from Portland, Oregon. The band is signed to infallible label Seventh Rule, and their debut, Speak Loud**Say Nothing, is a rollercoaster ride of non-stop riotous shred-fests. Equal parts Amp-Rep pandemonium, quarrelsome tech-metal, and grinding noise tumults, Wizard Rifle’s genus might be vaguely familiar, but they have all the attributes of some hitherto undiscovered species.
The group,****formed in 2009 and comprised of drummer/vocalist Sam Ford and guitarist/vocalist Max Dameron, make one hell of an eccentric racket. And it’s safe to say, in a musical world where everything’s been done, overdone, and done to death, Wizard Rifle have something genuinely unique to offer. Speak Loud**Say Nothing‘s**five tracks are stacked with idiosyncratic inventiveness, so much so that I’m wondering whether I can really do it justice by describing what the group has cooked up.
I’ll begin with the first track, “Tears Won’t Soften Steel”. With every song on the album being as outlandishly creative as the next, this is as good a place to start as any. Here’s its recipe for success. First you get a Melvins’ feedbacking base brewing. Then add in Ford’s slamming drums to help with the fermentation. Layer on Dameron’s Behold… The Arctopus-styled weird and punctilious riffs, and blend that with melodic hardcore vocals—except you’ll need to keep an ear out and discard that last ingredient when the Jesus Lizard howls arrive. Now, dust all that with some of Andrew WK’s irreverence, some of Battles’ rarefied precision and a fair dose of Genghis Tron’s****propulsion. Ok, got all that? Great. Now take that heady stew of influences and bake it with the kind of chaotic noise you’d hear inside your head on day three of an acid-fried bender. Now you’re getting close to the kind of uproar Wizard Rifle dish out on the very first song.
You’re thinking I’ve served up a bit of hyperbole already, right? “Tears Won’t Soften Steel” is six and a half minutes long. Surely it can’t include all that? Well, it does. Among all the scrappy angular noise and mathcore riffing lurks a band with a rebellious spirit that’d do Frank Zappa proud. Plucking inspiration from across the noisome spectrum, Wizard Rifle don’t care about conventional rock or metal rules—they’ve taken that rulebook, burnt it, pissed on its ashes and buried it for all time.
Everyone’s on here: the Swans turn up in the band’s willful dissonance, Black Sabbath haunts the gloom-laden grinding passages, and Arabot materialize in Wizard Rifle’s demented unconventionality. OM appears in the hypnotic thrum of the more lead-footed passages on “Megatherium”, but then, so too does a Pink Floyd psychedelic finish and some shimmery tremolo black metal highs. It’s the band’s ability to harness such conflicting influences, deconstruct, distort and then coalesce them into a coherent narrative that brands them as genuine subversives. It’s important to note that while their influences are recognizable, there’s no copycatting to be found on Speak Loud**Say Nothing. It’s easy to throw out references in order to try and capture the band’s sound, but that doesn’t suggest Wizard Rifle have plundered the heavier realms and simply imitated a few trademark moves. They haven’t. They’ve taken snippets of what they find most musically compelling and transformed it into something they can rightly call their own.
Wizard Rifle crafts ‘fuck you’ suites for anyone who’s a stickler for genre rules, and that ensures the album remains enthralling. But the dynamic between Dameron and Ford is also compelling, and a track like “Nobody” illustrates this superbly. When Dameron drops the ringing intro riffs, and Ford slams the cymbals in support, there’s a clear sense of the intuitive connection that exists between the two. As the song shifts from psych thumper into spiraling Orthrelm territory and back again, the instinctual interplay between the two musicians is obvious.
All the songs evolve, devolve and mutate rapidly. The epic-length “Leathery Gentlemen” shifts through so many movements it becomes a gloriously transfixing blur, and even the comparatively short and grungy blast of “Frazetta” never lingers on a point for long. All that changeable and psychotic momentum should, given its constant state of flux, make for a fragmented mess, but it doesn’t. It’s quite the reverse; all the deviations are corralled by the alignment of two artists fully in sync. It’s easy to forget that it’s just two guys making all this noise. But if you pause to consider what Dameron and Ford have achieved here, it is remarkable.
Speak Loud**Say Nothing is an outstanding debut, setting the barometer of strangeness and frenetic creativity spinning off its dial. It’s filled with ingenious bursts of noise, and chanted, harmonious vocals. The instrumental and artistic prowess of Wizard Rifle deserves to be applauded by anyone who loves genuinely radical music. Speak Loud**Say Nothing is experimentally inclined, but not in a pretentious or haughty fashion—it’s just forward-thinking and refreshingly audacious. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a band that sounds as genuinely revolutionary as Wizard Rifle.
(Speak Loud Say Nothing is released March, 13, 2012 on Seventh Rule)