In 2013, Old Man Wizard released their debut album Unfavorable. With its blend of folk, progressive rock and quirky lyrics with an occult and occasionally Fantasy oriented vibe, it was an interesting effort. As the band now returns with a two track vinyl EP there have been changes, mainly for the better. While the A-side opens with an outright black metal section, sounding like something from In the Woods’ early material, we soon move over to the progressive rock side again. The play style is not overly technical, but competent. Riffs and melodies do what they are supposed to do, and are placed where they are supposed to be placed. The melodic shifts sometimes make you think of Mega Man II, sometimes of 70’s progressive rock, sometimes of Maiden’s Powerslave.
The B-side’s groovy “The Blind Prince” has some even more direct heavy metal tendencies, even though the comparatively soft spoken, high pitched vocals are of a kind which wouldn’t be found on an Accept album. Driven forward by catchy drum work and even catchier riffing, the song lays somewhere between a headbanger and a foot-tapper. As in the former track, there are some 70’s influences here, some (subtle) folk strains and perhaps even a note of pop music – mainly in the vocal harmonies, and it is certainly a matter of interpretation. There’s once again an occult air hanging over some of the proceedings, strengthened by a great looking cover which I believe to be made by Valin Mattheis of Strange Gods.
The production differs from the full length, its comparatively heavy notes having much more of a metal flavor. It is a solid choice – while I felt just fine with the softer sound of Unfavorable this new sound probably widens the potential appeal of the music, without harming the sensibilities of already established fans.
Innocent Hands is a hard hitting, pipe wielding, gnome summoning little piece of California culture. It will be released in a while, and will then be announced on the band’s web page. If you’re at all into progressive rock with a heavy edge, I suggest you check this out as soon as it is released.
In the meantime, you can ogle this dungeon synth/Manowar/LARP style video of a track from Unfavorable: