Merlin - The Wizard

Merlin The Wizard cover
The Wizard
The Company
Average: 7.5 (2 votes)
Not be confused with the defunct Bend, Oregon band by the same name (or cute marine animal for that matter), Kansas City, Missouri’s Merlin has been casting its fuzzed out and doomy spells since 2012 but only recently graced this site’s hallowed archives following four full-length albums, as well as a handful of singles and other sundries, including an unreleased Nick Cave cover on a 4" split with Theo,s Mystic Robot Orchestra. While earlier offerings, notably 2016,s “Electric Children”, adhered to an atypical sludge crawl, the eclectic and multi-instrumental quintet has fortuitously shaken off its overt Electric Wizard emulating bugaboo with its latest, “The Wizard”, which lends itself to a softer and more languid pace as it features all kinds of nifty jazz elements ranging from organ and keyboards to saxophone and omnichord... Ougabooga!
On first listen, impressions of Black Nasa, an old-school, equally jazzy stoner rock outfit from way back, popped up, notably due to Jordan Knorr’s slightly whiny yet ingratiatingly nasal vocals, as well as Carter Lewis and Stu Kersting’s floaty, dream weaving guitar riffs whilst some of the darker passages such as the wiggly and wobbly, wah-infused “Golem” or grimy and wailing, as well as sped up, final third of the 11.5 minute versatile closer “The Wizard Suite”, parallel Sleep’s “Holy Mountain”. Drums and percussion wise, Caleb Wyels does a sweet job of laying down bouncy and hip, un-harried beats (on “Sage’s Crystal Staff” his fleeting snare is resoundingly ominous), whilst bassist Chase Thayer evokes a mirthful bassoon player who’s got no better place to be at the moment, especially at the beginning of “Gravelord”, with his creepy opening line, and throughout “Golem”, which benefits from his hypnotic albeit funked out, heavy handed lurching prior to the track’s incrementally “wizened” development.
As well, “The Wizard” is the perfect soundtrack for those leisurely, methadone seeking daily strolls to the pharmacy, rain or shine – It’s pleasantly un-abrasive and chill, mood-setting fare highly suitable to warming up one’s eardrums (and doldrums) for headier mid-afternoon and evening fare. I have to say, the swell sax inclusion on a number of tracks provides this release with a singular identity rarely gleaned on stoner rock/metal. In fact, the kooked out and waltzing “Iron Borne”, with its richly mellow private investigator vibes, unequivocally conjures images of “Colombo” and “In the Heat of the Night”! Additionally, the one track which poignantly sticks out like a sore thumb is the upbeat and galloping, as well as doomier as opposed to “stoner” “Tarantula Hawk”.
Granted, both the band and album’s titles fail to win prizes for originality but still, they’re both compellingly off the beaten path as far as genre innovation goes. If anything the Show Me state is no longer all about Ozark and Winter’s Bone, but Merlin as well!

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