Gasping for breath on the heels of 2011’s excellent full-length ‘The Speed of Smoke’, Atlanta, Georgia’s stoner-sludge metal specialists, Wizard Smoke, have released their two-song EP, ‘The Tickler’,which continues the band’s winning combination of scuzzy, psychedelic riff-driven stoner-metal and throat shredding vocals. Where 2009’s ‘Live Rock in Hell’ was a straight-up, in-your-face assault of distorted grooves, ‘The Speed of Smoke’ built upon that formula but also raised the stakes by including more progression, experimentation, and a cleaner production which resulted in a heavy, forward-thinking, yet catchy album. Wizard Smoke’s newest, ‘The Tickler’EP, fits comfortably right in with their two previous releases.
“Christian Cross”, the EP opener, alarmingly takes off at a break-neck speed, but like an overweight, middle-aged burnout with the best intentions of keeping up the pace, fatigue inevitably sets in, and the band eases into a more comfortable, slug-like groove. Wizard Smoke continues to tastefully include the use of synthesizers which add additional textures by sporadically washing over the riffs and the frayed vocal stylings of James Halcrow. At over ten minutes in length “Christian Cross” has plenty of room to breath. The instrumental passages are kept alive by the drumming which allows the guitars to explore a variety of tempos as the synths help to maintain a consistent atmosphere. In contrast to the song’s upbeat beginning, “Christian Cross” drags itself to a close like a wounded sloth amidst feedback, infrequent distorted guitar strums, and agonized bellows.
“Old Snake”, the flipside to “Christian Cross”, finds Wizard Smoke mining a grittier, bluesier sound. Where “Christian Cross” spends a majority of its time in the down-tuned realm of slow-mo doom riffs, “Old Snake”has a more up-beat, blues swagger and the band sounds right at home. While Wizard Smoke are no strangers to blues-inspired stomp, they are able to switch gears and still maintain a consistency and uniformity between not only their songs, but also among their releases.
Even though “Christian Cross” and “Old Snake” are some of the longest tunes penned by the band, at only two songs in length, ‘The Tickler’ EP really only serves to fuel the anticipation for another full-fledged Wizard Smoke release. Here’s hoping to 2013. All of the band’s releases are available for free download through either their main website or their Bandcamp page. Vinyl is limited to 300 copies so act quickly to get a copy.
Words: Steve Miller