Wizard - Magic circle 3.5/5

Reviewed: 8-12-05


1. Enter the magic circle
2. Fire and blood
3. Call of the wild
4. Death is my life
5. On your knees
6. Metal
7. Uruk hai
8. Circle of hell
9. Warriors of the night
10. No way out
11. The magic goes on
12. Don't say goodbye

From their foundations, this German band has crushed out solid CDs in the purest vein of "true metal", Manowar worship all the way, although they have been somewhat inconsistent, ranging from good to flat out awesome, normally more of the former when championing metal for its own sake, and the latter when delving more into the fantasy aspects. This is their 6th CD (shockingly, with the same line up from their first CD), and it had a lot to live up to, given that its predecessor, 'Odin', was an absolute metal masterpiece, hitting all the right notes in a gloriously aggressive, melodic, compelling CD with a cohesive and forceful lyrical theme about the always welcome subject of Norse mythology.

Unfortunately, while still quite a strong CD, this one, perhaps understandably, does not quite live up to that daunting legacy, but is perhaps a half point behind, but only a half point, on almost all counts. Also, after having loved and had time to appreciate the prior CD, this CD on the first few listens is subject to some unfair, as well as reasonable, comparisons. Because of that, my opinion on the CD has certainly grown a good half a point after listening to it for a while.

Singer Sven D'anna is fantastic, and while he is not quite the uber-vocalist of an Eric Adams, prime Rob Halford, or Bruce Dickinson, he's not too far behind, most of the time in a powerful, strong, and comprehensible mid upper range, completely in command, and blasting into histrionics shrieks when the music demands it. Not to belabor the point, because this is not simply a Manowar clone, but that is where the most obvious comparisons are drawn. Bassist Voker Leson lays down the pulsing background, although not quite as obvious or involved as a Steve Harris or Joey Demaio. Guitarist Michael Maass does the job you expect, this is not the twin guitar dueling leads of Helloweenish or even Priestist Power metal, but a more basic, cutting, ripping, metal guitar of barbed wire, not that he can't deliver the high speed solos when needed. Drummer Snoppi provides plenty of frenetic double bass roaring through most of the CD.

After the obligatory one minute "instrumental" opening, the CD opens with a strong, double bass blasting "Fire and blood" reminiscent of Manowar's barn-burners, and Wizard tracks like "Hammer, bow, axe, and sword" (if not quite as awesome as that highpoint) lyrically covering the typical witch burning theme, with the inquisitor looking on as Satan himself at the end. Very good stuff, although certainly lacking the sheer, more intricate powered up brilliance of "The prophecy" from 'Odin' in its chorus, and dealing out satisfying, but more basic German metal chorusry. For me, "Call of the wild", which seems to be (I certainly hope) a complete tribute to Manowar with myriad quotes. Unfortunately, some of the more, uh, "memorable lines" like "drinking, rocking, fucking chicks/kick some bloody asses" bring to mind Manowar's most banal shirt and general remarks ever, some I would be just as happy to forget. (I mean, since when are true metal bands, if nothing else, singing about "rock"ing instead of some more metallic term? ) Lines like this stick out like a sore thumb, especially during the first couple of listens, even if the song itself is some overall good fun, it's certainly not going to take you a way to a higher plane of majestic nobility like 'Odin'. "Death is my life" brings back an upper tempo high point of the CD, with one of the more compelling choruses on the CD. "On your knees" brings us back to a more straight ahead, midtempo song, while (you've never heard of a title like this before) "Metal" pounds the true metal fist nicely, but again, isn't going to be the most inspirational track you've ever heard, even if it at least weaves in the Valhalla references pretty nicely, and kicks it up a notch for the chorus. The promising title of "Uruk hai" is great for some anthemic marching fun against the forces of the west.

Overall, this will happily satisfy any fans of the "true metal" cause, and those who never get enough of Manowar should hurry to pick up another prime cut of well done metal executing this vision. The only disappointment is just going to be in comparison to the last outing, and the fact that, while satisfying, it is not up to the penultimate spiritual glory of which the band is capable.




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