Having been a staple part of the Irish rock food pyramid for many years, gigging religiously and opening up for titans such as Boris, Sleep, and Red Fang, to name but a few, when Wizards of Firetop Mountain announced their debut LP would finally materialize this November, many would be slapping their knees and roaring “it’s about time!”
The band have well proven their mettle over the last four years on the back of a demo, double-sided single, a popular Youtube video, and of course, their rise to furniture-level recurrence in music venues all around the country. With many of the bases covered up to a point, it should be no surprise then that the band would eventually conjure up something like this self-titled LP; a sweaty letter to both their past and future.
The engine fires up instantaneously on this stolen Camaro joyride of a record with ‘Ain’t Gonna Loose’, a respectable piece of hard rock groove that talks as much jive as it does speak the eternal language of riff. ‘Chase the Devil’ and ‘Leanan Sidhe’ provide those important chorus belters that will doubtlessly find booming reciprocation from many a drunken, fist-pumping punter. These first tracks introduce the LP as the kind of groove-laden, good time rock n’ roll familiar to everyone; the relentless skin-pounding, the solos that seem to arrive just on time, and quite naturally, the “baby!”
It’ll appear formulaic and you may think you’ve got the record down to a tee by the third track, that is until ‘Burn it All’ fucks up those expectations with the kind of NWOBH regality that turns your coffee mug into the hollowed skull of an ancient foe. If you’ve seen the band live, this sudden change in direction will be of no surprise, but to a first time listener, the record’s solidification to lightning struck heavy metal is a welcome transition. ‘Fire and Stone’ brings the album to an end with one final sword-wielding gallop through the carrion fields, and you may find yourself asking whether this was an excursion into Maiden territory or a new promise.
There were no attempts here at putting out a long-winded exhibition piece in the vein of many modern prog rock acts and each track contains a condensed energy and focus that proves substantial in itself. The album doesn’t spend long saying what it wants to say and it may even overtake you if you aren’t keeping an eye on the track list; a trait that some may welcome considering the volume of hour-long metal releases that dawdle and masturbate. Wizards of Firetop Mountain’s debut is very much a tale of two bands; one that dances and one that attacks. It could be listened to as a homage to the late 70s and early 80s, or you could take it for what it is: a long-awaited headbanger from a band who’ve been around the block and back. Liam Doyle