You probably know the feeling just as well as I do, once in a while you can almost sense that the next album from a band will be massive. When I put away “Pathways Into Darkness” the second full length from Australia’s The Wizar’d released early in 2010, I kind of knew that the next record would be something really special. I don’t know why, probably because I could sense that the band was nearly there, that just a little more quality in the songwriting would make the next release something to remember. I wouldn’t have been writing this if “Ancient Tome Of Arcane Knowledge” didn’t live up to my high expectations, of course, and this time the band has really outdone themselves. Everything is improved, the musicianship, including the vocals, the production and especially the songs are much better. To put it short – this will be one of the highlights of the year, when it’s time to piece together those ever so difficult lists towards the end of December.
Metal Squadron hooked up with singer and guitarist Ol’ Rusty Vintage Wizard Master, or Will if you like, to get an explanation of why the band has hit the famous nail on its head this time around. To get to know the band a little bit better, why not start with the beginning. Also, what were the ambitions of the band at the time, and have the ambitions changed as The Wizar’d has grown to be some kind of an insider tip?
– The Wizar’d was formed in 2004, my only intention at the time was to re-create the atmosphere of the bands I had become obsessed with. The dread and horror of bands like Black Sabbath, Witchfinder General, Saint Vitus, Trouble and Candemass. In the beginning it was just me recording some rough and very shit demos, but soon I was joined by my old friend Blackie and another friend of ours Pirate of Days, and we continued to make more rough, and shit demos that will never be distributed. Those days were very primitive and fairly directionless, I didn’t know much about recording or writing songs, I just wanted to make music that I would enjoy listening to.
Back then I never really thought of what the band would be doing in the future, I wanted like minded people to hear the music, but I never really thought of what kind of releases we’d be doing or playing gigs. I certainly never would have guessed we’d end up playing with a band like Saint Vitus, or having our albums put out by the same label that releases killer shit like Pagan Altar and Witchfinder General. So in this way you could say we have far exceeded my original expectations. Today my ambitions are the same as when we first started, I still just want to write music that I enjoy, I just have a clearer idea of what I want – dark and evil heavy metal!
I have to admit I didn’t follow The Wizar’d closely until “Pathways Into Darkness”, but it seems you very productive during the first years of the band’s existence. Was this due to an early enthusiasm that many bands experience, or did you have lots of material lying around from before the band was formed?
– Between 2005 and 2007 we had five releases that were the result of several recording sessions. At that point I wasn’t confident in my ability to put together a full length album, and I wanted to wait until I could come up with something that would be satisfying, and not just churn out some boring album that I wouldn’t be happy with. So we focused on recording shorter releases. None of the releases from that period are very lengthy so I guess the reason why there are so many can mainly be put down to inexperience in song writing. I learnt a lot about recording during that time though, what works and what doesn’t.
We also wanted to show the difference between the studio recordings and what we sounded like live so we released a couple of live recordings. While the studio recordings were more focused, our live stuff was more chaotic, heavy, fucked up!
At least you got some recording experience and also a chance to work with a few different labels. What did you learn from this period in time? What’s been most valuable for you later on?
– During that time I learnt a lot about recording with the bare minimum required to make what could be considered a decent recording. With the exception of the track “Sebado Negro”, and that was only because I had free access to a studio for a short time, we never went into a proper recording studio before recording “Pathways into Darkness”. For a while I thought I could get away with using completely shit equipment, but as I worked on more recordings I realized that one day I would have to buy a better guitar, amp, microphones etcetera. I’ve slowly got my hands on some better gear over the years, nothing too crazy but it does the job a lot better.
I just recently bought your debut album “Infernal Wizardry”, and was surprised to hear what your vocals sounded like back then. It’s safe to say I enjoy your vocals a lor more now. Did you decide to change your style, or was this something that came naturally to you?
– The way I sing now is just a natural progression of what I used to do, back then I had no idea how to sing or what I should be doing, although I still don’t really know how to sing, I’ve never had any lessons or anything like that, and I never practice, I’ve just figured out the limitations of my voice and what works for me.
In the career of almost every band, there are a few turning points, some bands mentioned a certain early recording as it helped shape their sound, while others give credit to a new member entering the band or maybe more often, the first full length. What would you say are the turning points in the career of The Wizar’d so far?
– I can’t really call what we have done so far a career. No one is making any money off the band here. As much as I wish doing this could be my livelihood, it ain’t happening. I don’t think we’ve had many major turning points as such, just slowly getting better at what we do. For me I have an idea of the type of songs I want to write and with each release I’m getting a little closer to what I want to achieve. With this in mind I think “Pathways Into Darkness” was the first release where the songs started sounding closer to that goal. Maybe when we reach it I’ll break up the band. Ha-ha!
As a musician and song writer, do you tend to be critical of your past work, or do you simply view them as a result of where you were at that point in time? Was there something about “Pathways Into Darkness” that you wanted to change when you started writing songs for the new album?
– A bit of both I guess. I can think of things I would change in both albums if I was to record them again, but they are what they are. When I started writing the songs for the new album I wanted them to sound more complete, and for all the songs to capture the same atmosphere. I think “Pathways Into Darkness” is more varied, I wanted the new one to be more focused.
Interesting, since I also feel “Pathways Into Darkness” is a more diverse album, while the new one makes a much stronger overall impression. Listening to “Ancient Tomb Of Arcane Knowledge” really feels like listening to an album, not only a collection of songs.
-Yeah “Pathways Into Darkness” is more diverse in a way as the songs from that album weren’t written at the same time, for example “Living Dead” was written in 2005. On “Ancient Tomb Of Arcane Knowledge” I wrote all the music specifically for one album, which I think made it more consistent, and the songs all follow the same theme and feeling.
What kind of theme and feeling are we talking about?
– An impending apocalypse by fire of course!
What about “Ancient Tome Of Arcane Knowledge” are you most satisfied with yourselves? Compared to your past releases, would you say that the process that led to the finished product was an easy or difficult one?
– As I said I think the new album is a more focused effort, I’m also way happier with the song writing – the songs flow better, the production is heavier, the songs are more evil, the playing is better, it’s just better than anything we’ve done before. That’s what I said about “Pathways Into Darkness” when it came out too. Ha-ha! I spent a lot longer writing the songs for “Ancient Tome Of Arcane Knowledge”, I would say the recording process was a little easier because I was more experienced, and had better gear this time around.
So far “Ancient Tome Of Arcane Knowledge” is only available on vinyl, but apparently it will be released on CD on October 31st on Barbarian Wrath. Do you see a problem with the long period of time between the vinyl release and the CD-release?
– I don’t see any problem with separating the releases like this. It gives the LP time to sell some copies and for Buried By Time And Dust to get back some of the money they spent on it. We did the same thing last time only the other way around.
Buried By Time And Dust also brought out the vinyl version of your last album “Pathways Into Darkness” and Barbarian Wrath did the CD, so you should know both labels from before. I want to ask you about being on Buried By Time And Dust. When the guys show such an excellent taste when it comes to all the stuff they’re rereleasing, I would have viewed it as an honor being the only “new” band being signed to the label. Do you feel the same way?
– It’s an honor for sure, although we aren’t the only new band they have released, they also put out some stuff by The Lamp of Thoth.
There went my credibility! How on earth could I forget the killer EP “No Laughing Matter”, one of the best releases of 2011? The fault wasn’t made any less significant by the fact that “Ancient Tome Of Arcane Knowledge” at times reminds me a little of the Keighley-band.
– Buried By Time And Dust are a fucking great label, they only release stuff that they are totally into and have put out some of my favorite releases of all time, so it’s very cool to be involved with them.
The Wizar’d are metal heads not artists”, is a line inside the booklet of “Pathways Into Darkness”. I might have given the sentence another meaning than you intended, but personally I am so sick and tired of people considering metal as a form of art, and also bands trying to take metal into more “intellectual” directions.
– Yeah you got it right, fuck people who want to play heavy metal but feel the need to distance themselves from it at the same time by calling it art. Those people usually get out of metal and move on to something else eventually anyway. Fuck em!
What pisses you most off by this kind of attitude?
– People being into something half arsed and then gloating about it.
I believe both versions of “Pathways Into Darkness” were quite strictly limited. Do you have any ambitions at all regarding sales of the new album? Are you satisfied with being an act with lots of credibility and an underground following, or will it add another dimension to the experience that The Wizar’d is if you reach a wider audience with the new album?
– Ha, I guess a better way of saying it is both versions are limited to 666 and 500 copies, because you can still buy copies wherever. We aren’t really a band that sells lots of copies. it doesn’t bother me. Usually bands that sell 10,000 copies of their album have to compromise in some way or another. Once you aren’t flavor of the month anymore, and no one cares about you, there are still going to be photos of you wearing a Nightwish t-shirt and camo shorts in the Nuclear Blast catalogue. I’d rather have a smaller following of people who are really into it, and can find shit for themselves rather than being told what to listen to by some shitty “big” label’s PR guy anyway.
Drummer Iron Tyrant is listed as a member of the band on both “Pathways Into Darkness” and “Ancient Tomb Of Arcane Knowledge”, but he doesn’t play on any of them. Please clarify his situation.
– I am unable to comment on Iron Tyrant’s activities during this time as the outcome of his trial is still pending.
One thing I really like about the new album, is how both your leads as well as the vocals of course, has a very strong identity. Is this something that you have been focusing on developing through the years, or do you feel that you had this identity from early on in your career as a musician?
– I guess I’ve just become a better musician over the years, As I mentioned, I never really had any proper lessons or anything like that, so maybe that’s why my vocals and guitar solos sound the way the do. I’ve always admired people like Mark Shelton and Paul Chain who have a totally unique style, that is not necessarily technically great in the traditional sense, but killer in its own way so it’s something I strive to be able to do myself.
You have recorded in two different studios for both of the last albums. Tell us a little about the recording process, and which instruments are recorded where. Manilla Maniacs Studio certainly sounds like a studio you could own yourself?
– We use a professional recording studio in Hobart to record the drums, since it’s a lot of fucking around to get a good drum sound in a home studio. Better to do it with good mics and with someone who really knows their stuff. I have a small home studio setup to record the rest, which works well for me because I enjoy recording and mixing, and I like to take a long time to get everything right, which we would never be able to afford to do in a real studio. We produce our albums on a tiny budget, probably what most bands would spend in one session. Ha-ha!
Both “Pathways Into Darkness” as well as the new album, clock in between 33 and 34 minutes, while your first album, “Infernal Wizardry” was a lot longer. Is the playing time of the two latest albums a pure coincidence, or more like the perfect playing time for a record by The Wizar’d?
– It’s no coincidence, the first album goes for longer because I was worse at writing songs back then. I didn’t really get the idea of less is more. All my favorite albums are shorter, I don’t really listen to 50 minute albums that much. If you have an album that goes for around 35 minutes, every second of it is killer, and it doesn’t drag on or get boring and that‘s how I want my songs to be. Look at “Master Of Reality”, that only goes for about 33 minutes!
I noticed one of you guys, I believe it’s Blackie, wearing RAM- and Atlantean Kodex t-shirts on pictures on the last two albums. Will the influence from bands like Pagan Altar and Manilla Road always be the most prominent part of your sound, or are there pieces of today’s underground scene that leave an impression on your sound as well?
– While we listen to new bands as well as older stuff, we aren’t influenced by any new bands. The new bands that I’m into are influenced by and play in the same style as the older stuff I like anyway.
Could you give us a couple of your favorite records from the last few years? What do the records you like have in common?
– Stuff like Procession “Destroyers of the Faith”, the Demons Gate- demo, Hell and their album, “Human Remains”, Witches Coven’s demo “Fire Signs” and so on. Not that any of those sound alike, but I’m sure you get the idea.