Wizard Union are a Sludgy Stoner band from Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti MI with an interesting sound and ethic. The band started in 2012, when whilst playing with seperate projects Drummer Larry and Guitarist Samir decided to jam together. They later invited Samir’s workmate Aaron to play Bass in this project, and have been producing colon crushing Stoner riffs ever since.
I was fortunate to get to hear their new release Phantom Fury and speak to Collective member Samir about how they go about their thing. And no this is not a tale of tragedy, Vampire children and immortality, like the title would have you believe. It’s far more interesting than that.
So why is their project any different from anything else? What makes them unique?
Wizard Union are part of a collective, the Wizard Union Collective, which is all about promoting and distributing their various projects. What does this mean? I hear you ask.
Samir: ”Overall it’s about having musical freedom to do and play whatever we want without calling it Wizard Union. It’s just a part of a larger body of work”. So potentially this approach could incorporate different projects from the same musicians, an opportunity to explore different sounds and genres as a group”.
So why does this approach work for Wizard Union?
Samir; (There’s) ”No deadlines. (We) release as much as we want from different members. Play shows with whoever is available within the collective. Right now we’re still pretty young as a collective, but the three of us have been playing with each other for almost 5 years now, and we’re open to jamming with others, and if we jam with someone else and it doesn’t sound like Wizard Union, then we’ll call it something else and release it”.
So, this is a metally musical melting pot, allowing freedom of expression for the musicians that are involved. An idea that I find fascinating and intriguing, so my main thought is how does it transpose itself to actual performance? Is it garbled, without direction or identity, or is it creative and purposeful?
Listening to Phantom Fury I am pleased to hear a great many influences sounds and also unintentional influences. There seems to be a hardcore punk ethic and I hear hints of EyeHateGod, Thrash even Surfer Rock! Whilst all this is evident it is not confused but instead pleasingly interesting and most importantly as heavy as a left hook from Chuck Norris. I asked Samir where influence were drawn from.
“I’d like to think Wizard Union is what happens when the three of us get together. I know the one band that binds us altogether is The Melvins, but we’re all into different shit. I listen to a lot of punk and metal. It’s funny you mention surf rock, because I’m definitely a fan, I just never consciously wrote anything like that. I was in a stoner/doom/thrash metal band called Lord Centipede, so maybe that’s where the thrash comes from. I like the Eyehategod’s Dopesick album.” (C’mon you like EVERY EyeHateGod Album, just admit it to your self Samir – Editor)
Phantom Fury is full of heavy fuzz, grinding guitars and is held together well by the quality of Larry’s drumming. Harsh Tokes Of The Wizards Pipe has grinding guitars, a hint of an eerie edge with a punky style vocal. Whereas Cosmic Gatekeeper is fast paced, almost a punk track in its own right, until it hits the sludgy breakdowns, slowing the situation down with a pleasing groovy step down sequence.
Ancient Evil Bong chugs along joyously, hitting you aurally with guitar stabs and vocal aggression before taking an inspired turn with a breakdown and buzzing solo then it slowly works itself back into the faster paced chug of Doom.
Burn Bitches, Not Witches would be the crowd pleaser of the tracks, with a chorus that was made for shouting back at the mans and a great lead riff. Not just a pretty name! Samir; ”The chorus Burn Fucking Bitches Not Fucking Witches, came from something I read on the Internet somewhere. I thought, that’s funny, I should make that a song title or use it for something. I have lists for song titles, album names, and band names for projects in the collective, for when I find shit like that. Once I had the title for the song I was like so what’s this gonna be about? And it’s about the Salem witch trial. I guess people can sing along to the chorus if they want to, but that’s not what I had in mind when I wrote it.”
Burial Ground opens with a wet psychedelic sounding bass before leading into the most outright stoner riff on the album. My fist reaction was to head bang and there was no cause to stop throughout the entire track. Full of monumental riffage and drum attack, this is an absolutely storming track.
Phantom Fury takes off where Burial Ground finishes, continuing the stoner theme with great riffs but covers more ground musically than any other track, taking many turns and directions.
This is definitely a release that improves with each track in terms of sound and songwriting in my opinion. Speaking to Samir about this progression and future plans he told me;
”Our next Wizard Union band project which we’ll start recording next spring is going to be the start of a living LP. We’re going to have an album on Bandcamp that keeps getting updated with new songs over time, rather than just releasing a bunch of EPs. When we think the LP is full, we’ll release the physical copy and then start the next LP the same way. So the evolution of the songs that you mentioned on Phantom Fury, might be even more apparent on the LPs. We have 3 songs ready to record, and maybe 3-4 written that I think are good enough to start practising, so who knows how different those songs will be compared to our previous works. They’re fucking heavy though.”
As far as I’m concerned this a Collective to keep an eye on. They have plenty to offer in terms of the Stoner Sludge sound but also touch on different styles which could open them up to a larger fan base. But to just regard the Wizard Union element would be wrong, there’s other things to look forward to from these musicians.
Samir; ”As far as projects we have lined up, Larry and I have a Sludge Punk Noise Rock thing called Bladder that we’re planning to record in the spring. That project pretty much came out of he and I playing together as Wizard Union as a duo, because our Bass Player Aaron had to drop out at the last minute, and we didn’t wanna cancel” Samir took over Bass duties for this show as they felt it might add to the Doom effect, but they were not happy with the outcome. ”We didn’t necessarily like Wizard Union songs played with just a bass and drums, but Larry was like, hey how about we keep this going as a godheadsilo type thing, and that’s pretty much how the collective idea was born. Keep it all under one umbrella.”
Check these guys out on Bandcamp and give them a follow on Facebook and Twitter. If they’re you’re thing the EP is only $3, which is cheaper than a pint of Fosters Kangaroo Piss. Have a taste below! (of the band not Kangaroo Piss).