- Subirse el Muerto
- Abandon the Wolf
- Seeth Inside
- Ghost Untitled Track
Release Date: February 10, 2012
Label: Altsphere Production
Listening to Leeds four-piece Wizard’s Beard’s first outing, 2011’s Pure Filth, there was no mystery as to their mission. The record (review here) was a disaffected output of sludge metal malevolence; it set a course for hate and did not waver in its aggressive onslaught for the full 32-minute runtime. Just months later, Wizard’s Beard return with a full-length some 20-plus minutes longer, Four Tired Undertakers (Altsphere Productions), an album that furthers their sludgy cause with six tracks of ultra-pissed screaming, riffing and crashing that’s neither for the uninitiated, nor the faint of heart, nor the sober. The guitars of Craig Jackson have grown thicker in tone, and that only helps bolster the attack behind Chris Hardy’s vicious, metal-style screaming, and while just like if you play space rock, someone’s going to compare you toHawkwind, if you play slow and scream, someone’s going to compare you to EyeHateGod, the reality of the situation is Wizard’s Beard are less punk-based and more metal than that band ever became, and Four Tired Undertakers may have some of that influence – I’d argue it does, whether direct or as filtered through other acts who had it – is nowhere near as raw as the New Orleans sludge progenitors’ formative or even later works. It’s a different kind of groove, more aware of the genre in which it resides and not necessarily content to stay within those confines – because there’s nothing about Four Tired Undertakers that sounds content really on any level – but not yet fully in a position stylistically to weave into and between them.
The crux of the album is the aggression, though, no doubt about it.Wizard’s Beard offer no quarter for subtlety as they pummel and drive these six songs into listeners’ skulls. It’s not a pretty process and it’s not supposed to be, and it’s not long before opener “Subrise el Muerto” establishes what will become the almost completely unipolar burn of which Four Tired Undertakers is comprised. Jackson riffs out in mostly familiar doomed diligence while drummer Dan Clarke punctuates and crashes behind, riding the groove even as much as he’s helping set it. Bassist Neil Travers offers periodic backing vocals, coming on as a lower growl to supplement Hardy’s higher-register nastiness on “Abandon the Wolf” and elsewhere, and the whole atmosphere of the album feels like burning. 53 minutes is a long time to keep that up, and Wizard’s Beardset themselves to precisely that task, varying some in pace – the mega-slowdown later into “Abandon the Wolf” being especially effective in this regard – if not in mindset. It’s an engaging blend, as far as this kind of music is allowed to engage. As “Abandon the Wolf” transitions directly and smoothly into the upbeat beginning of longer third cut “Daemon,” which spends the first three of its total nine and a half minutes in a faster push, Clarke even getting some time on double-kick, before once more being consumed by a slower, tidal sway. Hardy’s scream is adaptable to whatever speed of riff it tops, and follows the rhythm of the music closely while also offering some intricacy of cadence, particularly when Traversgets involved, as he does just before the slowdown in “Daemon.”
And as Hardy is largely at the fore of the mix and apparently willing to take on the rather considerable task of being at the forefront of Wizard’s Beard’s several abrasive elements, Four Tired Undertakers works that much better for his being able to work fast or slow. “Daemon” runs its course in purposeful repetition – a common theme in the band’s longer songs, to date – and Travers begins “Seeth Inside” on bass with Clarkegradually tom-thudding his way in before Jackson picks up with the riff. Perhaps most directly relatable to Buzzov*en’s “Useless” (a song for which I’ll admit to a longstanding personal affection), the central riff of “Seeth Inside” is a fine example of Wizard’s Beard working at what’s for them a middle pace before taking the same progression and cutting its tempo toward the end. This is tried and true in the sludge playbook, but there’s a reason these things become conventions of a genre: they work. It’s easy to feel by the end of the track like you’re drowning in a wash of crusty rage, but “Accursed” again offers some measure of tempo reprieve – that’s not to say “relief” – and some choice fills from Clarke before a breakdown chug topped with long-sustained screaming and some righteously doomed riffing leads to the inevitable slowdown, different perhaps for how late it arrives and just how drastic a change of pace it is. Five minutes in, closer “Harbinger” echoes that riff’s stonerly side and the opener’s as well, but as ever, Wizard’s Beard aren’t about to let it go unmatched by vocal cruelty from Hardy. Some background gang chants fill out a drum section, but the track is soon to its foreboding lurch.
A secret – or as it’s titled here, “Ghost Track” – follows the end of “Harbinger”’s 11-plus-minute violent spree, with both the most horrific screaming from Hardy on the album. Last I heard, these were called face-melters, but that may have changed. In any case, they come on in layers and cap more slow riffing from Jackson before devolving into backing shouts and plodding Four Tired Undertakers to its finish. No question that what Wizard’s Beard might lack in diversity, they more than make up in dedication to their sound, and with the confidence and stylistic clarity they bring to these tracks, it’s hard not to be subsumed into the riptide of resentment that seems to be the emotional core that’s playing out. They are fucking heavy, and fucking nasty, and that’s it. You get no break from it, no pretty parts, no clean-vocal melodic excursions, no indulgent soloing. Wizard’s Beard fuck you up for 53 minutes solid and leave you in a ditch when they’re done. The end. I’d imagine these songs are even more violent/virulent live, where Travers’ bass and Clarke’s kick drum can (hopefully) rumble the chest cavity into submission, but Four Tired Undertakers more than gets the point across with its unabashed thickness and almost primitive anger. If you’ve been waiting for the next-gen British scene’s answer to Iron Monkey, then let this record be a well-received announcement of Wizard’s Beard’s candidacy for the position. They might have just earned it. - JJ Kozcan (TheObelisk.net March 15, 2012)