One-man projects are increasingly common in the modern metal market, as dedicated individuals take the purely DIY route and leave band politics and shenanigans to other folks. Personally, 2016 has yielded two impressive discoveries of Australian one-man projects, from the slick melo-death theatrics of Valtari to this impressively vitriolic slice of mayhem from Rebel Wizard. The brainchild of a sole individual called Nekrasov (who also fronts a black metal band of the same name), Rebel Wizard tap into an intriguing sound. Maiden-inspired guitar harmonies and galloping trad-metal riffage are embroiled in a firestorm of raw, lo-fi blackened thrash mayhem. It’s an interesting combination with the potential to backfire. But guess what? It works!
Yet through all the spitefulness, Triumph of Gloom is first and foremost a hell of a lot of blasting fun, with the disparate styles gelling fantastically and striking a sweet chemical reaction. Short, compact and brimming with hateful energy, Triumph of Gloom rips out one nasty, hook-fueled song after the next, from the chunky riffs and engaging melodies of the sample-strewn instrumental opener “On the Unknown Self They Weep” through to longer compositions like the spectacular guitar theatrics and urgent blackened melodic death of “A Spell of Sorrow to Relieve the Curse of Triumph.” Although the noisy, lo-fi production lends the album a chaotic feel, lots of attention has been paid to writing cohesive, carefully structured jams and well-placed hooks and melodies. Triumph of Gloom is also home to some delightfully creative and convoluted track titles as an added bonus.
Even in the midst of the album’s raw, noisy delivery, intentionally underdone production and demon-possessed, glass-chewing shrieks, the strong melodic sensibility should not be understated. Beneath the layers of noise, grime, and grit, tracks like “Sorcery” and “Ease of Wretchedness and Wonder” feature an abundance of sparkling harmonies and some triumphantly affecting melodies, counter-punched by the caustic delivery and raw aggression. “Trampled by Wolves and Sheep” coalesces Rebel Wizard’s influences into a skin-flaying package of awesomeness, its punky blackened stride complimented by spikey speed, trad-metal flourishes and high-wire guitar work, along with a more versatile vocal performance. The song absolutely slays and oozes rabid energy and unhinged aggression. Much like the opener, closing track “Hemorrhage Wonders” showcases subtle restraint while allowing Nekrasov the freedom to wig-out and unleash his soulful guitar chops.
Of course, it’s arguable that a slightly tidied up and beefier production could have enriched the album without sacrificing the raw aesthetics, but that would also run the risk of diminishing the fire in this beast’s belly. In the end, the unvarnished production is a big part of Rebel Wizard’s charm. Sounding like the bastard child of the NWoBHM movement and the darkest, most cvlt-ish underground thrashy black metal band, Rebel Wizard is the real deal and Triumph of Gloom is one of 2016’s most pleasantly unpleasant surprises.
Tracks to Check Out: “Trampled by Wolves and Sheep,” “A Spell of Sorrow to Relieve the Curse of Triumph,” and “Eat the Warlock”