When one thinks of black metal, that most ominous, damp, dark, and evil of subgenres, they’re unlikely to think of Australia. However, here to buck that trend are Rebel Wizard, a one-man project out of Melbourne, and his brand of ‘Heavy Negative Wizard Metal’.
Let’s go through that title. Rebel Wizard describes the ‘negative’ part as a signifier of his opposition to both mainstream and underground metal, which he sees as glossy and commercialised. Therefore the ‘rebel wizard’ is the one who goes beyond these realms of music, and crosses over into a sort of temporal zone where they can truly become themselves.
As intriguing as this conception is, ‘Magickal Mystical Indifference’ has a few problems. One is the tone of the album. Because of its bright texture, the black metal sections really struggle to dig their claws in. Rebel Wizard‘s sound is a sort of cross between old school black metal and early 80s NWOBHM, with some revivalist thrash thrown in. This makes for an uneasy blend that never jells in an especially compelling way.
That raw, recorded on the other side of a wall production style that epitomises early black metal is not a great fit for galloping, Iron Maiden style riffing. It means that the short tracks on ‘Magickal Mystical Indifference’ never feel especially grand or imposing, just muted and oddly colourless. There’s a ton of bands doing the 80s metal revival thing at the moment, and Rebel Wizard don’t do much to stand out from the pack.
However, upon inspection of its lyrics, the album does become much more interesting. ‘The Mind Is Not Your Friend’ contains some really fascinating ideas, almost Buddhist in their conception of a person as a “conglomeration of energy”. This theme crops up frequently on the album, ‘You Are Being Lived, Dear One’ shares the philosophy, musing on mind-body dualism and the nature of consciousness atop its murky thrash attack.
This lyrical approach is inspired, and certainly at odds with black metal’s traditionally nihilistic, despairing worldview. Generally, ‘Magickal Mystical Indifference’ seems indifferently optimistic about humans and their place in the universe. It would be unsurprising to learn that Rebel Wizard practices some form of meditation, enabling him to have achieved quite profound insights, such as “there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the world, there is nothing going on, there is only consciousness”.
‘Magickal Mystical Indifference’ is genuinely eccentric. Rebel Wizard‘s optimistic take on that most pessimistic of subgenres makes for it ideologically ambitious work, and one worthy of huge respect. It’s just a shame that the music isn’t up to scratch with the philosophy. There are times where it almost teeters on the grand, crystal-clear soundscapes of Obesquiae, or follows down the path of the elemental, folk-inspired beauty of Saor. Unfortunately, it never quite reaches the musicality of those more skilled, singular artists.
‘Magickal Mystical Indifference’‘s ideas are idiosyncratically intriguing, but are let down by its uninspired craft. Still, there’s enough intelligence at work to suggest that Rebel Wizard will likely grow into a more accomplished project.