Ahh Wizard, what would I do without you? Lounging around in quarantine, the German epic power metal legends weren’t about to sit idle. It’s been four years since Fallen Kings (2017) rose from the ashes, after all - and 30 long years since their debut demo Legion of Doom (1991). So what would be on a band so steeped in German power metal culture as Wizard’s minds when releasing their twelfth album? Metal in My Head. No huge shock, the album is about metal and fighting. I guess we can’t be expecting outsiders to come in and drop interesting lyrical narratives such as on Odin (2003) or ...of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes (2011), so the boys will revert to the old adage of just playing metal for metal’s sake. And really, it might not be anything super special at all times, but Wizard have always managed to do it with a conviction their obvious influences Manowar couldn’t really keep up. Obviously they’re also trying to recapture some of that old Head of the Deceiver (2001) magic, without really getting there, but still managing some heavy, fist pumping moments of metal mania.
Long time guitarist Dano Boland dropped out last year, whereupon bassist Arndt Ratering called up his old No Inner Limits buddy Tommy Hartung to pick up the axe and join the metal feast. Hartung adds his own little flavorings, giving the album a feel of revitalization after the slightly dragged out Fallen Kings. Guitarist Michael Maass and vocalist Sven D'Anna were there since the beginning, the former blasting the twin guitar attack and speedy riffing alongside Hartung, as well as more than a few melodic pieces, like the end part of Victory, and a bunch of vigorous solos. D’Anna on his end was never the most eloquent vocalist, but the signs of age he showed on parts of Fallen Kings seem blown away as he deliver some potent shouts and massive performances; not quite like the high notes he once pulled, but still. The true Wizard hero however is behind the drums. Sören van Heek continues his streak of being an absolute unit, his drum lines and delivery having lost none of his potency over the years. The speedy first few songs on the album showcase his talent (the opener especially), while the remainder just sees him being a boss, towering his drum tracks beneath the gritty riffing, tossing in those sweet little drum fills of his.
I Bring Light Into the Dark opens the album up on a high note; succeeding quite well to recapture some of that old Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes feel, speedy in the right moments and with a high pitched vocal delivery from D’Anna. The lyrical theme is also a throwback to more mythologically inclined days of yore, a thing I wish we’d get to hear more of. That’s not to say the title track, Metal Feast or Destiny aren’t cool ass, fist pumping heavy metal in their own right. Just maybe they didn’t all need to be about metal? Whirlewolf would be the only skippable track, mainly because Wizard never could pull a really convincing ballad and this one, including a guest piano spot from Gustavo Acosta (Feanor) doesn’t go anywhere interesting. The main difference between Metal in My Head and its predecessor is the aftertaste; Fallen Kings seemed to say “this would be a decent album to close the career”, while Metal in My Head is invigorated to the end and brings a feeling of lots more to come. Wizard aren’t pulling any quirks or tricks, but sticking with the tried and true and doing with a certain passion and musical prowess, which is why they’re still doing it 30 years later; they’re also not pretending anything else. Metal, friendship and unity; that’s what Wizard always have been. That’s the way it has to be.
Standout tracks: I Bring Light Into the Dark, Metal Feast, Victory, 30 Years of Metal