Wizard Rifle — Portland, Oregon’s noodly math rock duo with a serious fetish for stoner-doom fuzz — are fucking great. They sound like the Big Business-ified Melvins fucked a baby into Shellac and then hired Matt Pike as their au pair. Or maybe not exactly that. But the band invite that kind of hyperbolic simile, in that their music is a fantastic amalgamation of years of genres that have crisscrossed eachother. But it’s less an exercise of superfluous name-checking than an interesting box of records congealing into one heavy-ass piece of vinyl after a house fire . Influence leap-frogging is a hard game to play, but Wizard Rifle play it incredibly well on Speak Loud Say Nothing, their debut on Seventh Rule. By walking a fine line between endearing and cloying, they manage to find themselves, at worst, hard not to like. But at best, they’re a great scratch for whatever itch you may have, be it mathy angularity, weighty doom, or noisy stoner weirdness.

Their influences are easily picked out, but also presented in a way where they’re not nakedly ripped off. The anthemic vocals in “Tears Won’t Soften Steel” resemble Here Come the Waterworks-era Big Business, while the jittery-yet-confident dervish beneath it recalls lords of anarchaic motherfuckery Lightning Bolt. “Megatherium” sounds like a meeting between Electric Wizard and Queens of the Stone Age. The epically-lengthed (and excellently-titled) “Leathery Gentlemen” manages to dart back and forth between all of them, all culminating in some truly inspired blastbeats that manage to sound like the whole album lead up to their arrival. But even though you can single out their influences (and exhaust your thesaurus trying to properly categorize them), it’s usually upon second or third listen; the band weave it all into something thoroughly their own. They may cover a lot of ground, but they do so consistently.

Granted, you’re going to hear one specific complaint about Wizard Rifle: the combination of Portland, music that’s equal parts noise rock and doom, the “wizard” in their name in 2012, and excessively goofy pictures on their Bandcamp page could all add up to Scarlet Letter-ing them with “hipster” accusations. And while I think the H-word is appropriate at times, I think any application of it to Wizard Rifle is largely misguided. On wax, there’s no ironic distance or implied winking. There’s just versatile guitar and powerful drums, waxing and waning whenever need be, acting as the soundtrack at the crossroad between Sonic Youth and High on Fire. And the fact that they reside there earnestly is just icing on the cake. Wizard Rifle are a bunch of bands you like concentrated into one solid band. I’m alright with that.

(4 out of 5 horns)


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