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Wizz Wizzard - 'Where The River Runs Cold' Album Review

Tracklist: 1. Crucified 2. On The Edge Of Desire 3. Heaven 4. The Wolf 5. Live Or Die 6. Word Of Shadows 7. Rock Lives On 8. Break Away 9. Road To Valhalla 10. Return Of The Vampires 11. Wonders Of The World Let me take you back to 1980. NWOBHM fans will not be disappointed with this release from Belgian metallers Wizz Wizzard. This is the second full length album from Wizz and co. “Crucified” was released along with a music video to wet our appetites. It was very dimly lit and low budget but Wizz exudes charisma and character. We see him as the prominent figure singing the song to his band mates and it is a fun accompaniment to a great opening track. “On the Edge of Desire” takes the tempo down to begin with but then we are back to the full assault of a high tempo chugathon that reminds me of Neon Knights by Black Sabbath. Wizz's voice holds it's piercing dominance throughout the track and is my main source of enjoyment on this album. “Heaven” is one of those tracks that really shows off Wizz's dynamism as a singer. A huge range matched with an incredibly clean tone all supported by that memorable vibrato of his. This song is all about the vocal for me, the instrumentation is clear and just in support of that. “The Wolf” is a change of tempo and we are plagued with some great guitar playing, especially the solo towards the end of the song. I can hear Ronnie James Dio's influence throughout track 5 “Live or Die”. A very eery and atmospheric song carried by the drama of Wizz's voice. I think the vocal could benefit from a touch of reverb in this song. Think it would really create some space for the vocal to sit in. The guitar is a bit too prominent in this song for my liking. “World of Shadows” is the first time we hear some much needed vocal harmony. The chorus is powerful and hard hitting. Some of the strongest melodies on the album are on this track. The first time I heard “Rock Lives On” was actually as an acoustic version live featuring Luke Appleton (Iced Earth) and I honestly prefer it acoustically. It's got a great round the camp fire kind of anthemic quality to it. The acoustic version of this song gets that chorus stuck in your head, maybe I am just jaded by a live experience? Who knows. “Break Away” is definitely one of my favourites on the album. It's a departure in sound and it takes a chance harmonically and melodically (as much as a NWOBHM band can). The acoustic guitars sound beautiful underneath the distorted overtone of the rest of the song. The chorus echoes the timeless “Children of the Sea” by Black Sabbath. Now it's back to business, we slam into “Road to Valhalla”. This song seems like filler to me at first but then annoyingly has one of my favourite riffs in the bridge section. The double tracking of the vocals really makes this a powerful ending and I regret thinking it was filler. “Return of the Vampires” does what it says on the tin, it's a cursory tale of vampires painted to a backdrop of mid tempo hard rock. The final track on the album, “Wonders of the World” bellows in with a very Maiden esque harmonised guitar line. To me this is the most coherent song on “Where the River Runs Cold” it has a much clearer sense of melody and direction and the chorus is a sing-along anthem. “Do they not believe!?”. The perfect ending to the album.

I get the feeling the production of this album is specifically chosen as to be indicative of influence and a clear choice to sound retro. It makes it an honest listen. There are no production techniques hidden behind here. What you hear is what is being played and that is surely a defining characteristic of NWOBHM? I do struggle to hear any bass throughout this album. Did a guitar player mix this? (Haha)

This is an album made purely and only for metal fans. I would never downplay someone else's musical ability but I would love to hear Wizz front a band like Saxon or Absolva. His voice is the reason I listen to his music, the other players leave me cold but that doesn't detract from this release. It's a great metal album that has it's place.

Review - Matt Jones

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