Merlin - The Wizard
The Company
Experimental Doom, Prog Rock
7 songs (39:44)
Release year: 2018
Merlin, The Company
Reviewed by Goat
Surprise of the month

Not a band I was previously familiar with, Kansas City's Merlin play a form of doom metal unafraid to experiment but very much focused on retaining cohesiveness. With influences as far flung as prog, jazz and Spaghetti Westerns, The Wizard is the band's fourth album and their experience shows; this is excellent. Opener Abyss begins almost as a Ennio Morricone tribute, softly strummed guitars and gentle trumpet transporting the listener back to 1966 and Sergio Leone's finest cinematic outing, before turning into strangely jazzed-up doom metal, backing saxophone adding flavour and heft alongside the riffs without changing the essential, ageless feel of the music. This could be some forgotten experiment from the seventies rather than a product of 2018; in truth it's possibly not even metal, in the same way early Black Sabbath mixed hard rock and jazz to create something very different. Merlin aren't as good as the legends, of course, but they do create oddly entrancing music that's hard to pigeon-hole - the riffs in Abyss could be from a slower klezmer band, for example. As a fan of the saxophone and its appearances in metal, I'm always happy to hear it incorporated in interesting and imaginative ways, and The Wizard does that very well indeed.

It doesn't neglect the core doom metal, either; listen to that rocking riff that opens Gravelord and carries the song into more psychedelic realms, like Hawkwind if they were born of the late 70s rather than the late 60s. That psychedelic touch is carried into interlude Sage's Crystal Staff and ominous instrumental Golem, while Iron Borne is quieter and more laid-back at first, having more of a Planet Caravan vibe before the band indulge themselves with a sax solo and lead into a nicely funky ending. The eleven-minute Wizard Suite is even better, a prog rock epic that slowly and beautifully builds up into a keyboard-and-sax-laden stomper that sounds like a demented Uriah Heep working themselves up into a ritualistic frenzy. If there's an aspect about the band I'm not completely in love with, it's vocalist Jordan Knorr; he's by no means awful or even off-putting, and puts in a respectably intense performance, but I have specific tastes for my doom singers, preferring them to be either preaching monks or howling barbarians, and he's neither. Still, even Ozzy was an acquired taste, and really it's easy to nitpick from an armchair - Merlin are without doubt a terrific band that I've very much fallen for! You can hear and buy the album at their Bandcamp.

Killing Songs :
Abyss, Gravelord, Iron Borne, The Wizard Suite
Goat quoted 80 / 100
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