At times a nod to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal movement through the eyes of a coked-up mind, at others a gritty power metal trip, Rebel Wizard’s Triumph of Gloom is from NKSV, the Australian musician behind Nekrasov.
Unlike Nekrasov’s ambient, dissonant style, Rebel Wizard have what NKSV calls “negative metal,” a way to avoid limiting one’s self to a category or label in order to achieve one’s absolute potential, and it’s a suitable description of what Rebel Wizard goes for.
Those aware of Nekrasov, especially last year’s Negative Temple album, will be better prepared for Triumph of Gloom. The album retains Nekrasov’s typical staticky, unpolished mix that buries everything in a mucky concoction, though the instruments are much clearer-sounding on this album. The messy shrieks and buzzy music is a hurdle to jump through.
Once that fact is taken in (and it helps to listen to the album via speakers or a stereo as opposed to headphones), Triumph of Gloom becomes less of an abstract of noise. Besides the production values and hoarse shrieking, NKSV avoids black metal as much as possible. Whatever “negative” metal may or may not be, this is at the very least heavy metal, sometimes speedy and reckless, sometimes far-reaching and expansive.
The former creates more fertile material than the latter. The album is at its best when the songs are two-minute cuts of ravenous joy. When the songs go beyond that, as a few of them do, the end product ends up mixed. Not even a cool streak of back-and-forth guitar soloing during the closing moments of “A Spell of Sorrow to Relieve the Curse of Triumph” saves the feeble minutes prior, and “Hemorrhage Wonders” doesn’t really go anywhere for seven minutes.
Take those two tracks off the album and Triumph of Gloom becomes a worthwhile EP instead of an uneven LP. Though originally released independently last year, Prosthetic Records is re-releasing it, giving Rebel Wizard a wider platform to get the album out. It’s a great opportunity, one that should benefit NKSV as he continues to work on this and Nekrasov simultaneously.
(released February 24, 2017 on Prosthetic Records)