The Final Catastrophe 
Artist: Wyzards  
Label: Mandrake Root (through Rugged Cross)  
Time: 6 tracks/58:45 
Every once in a while a reviewer like myself discovers an album of truly powerful music that for one reason or another has gained next to no press.  Such is the case with Wyzards's The Final Catastrophe.  It's superb old school prog metal, but being on an indie prog label and consisting almost entirely of tunes written from 1980-82 doesn't exactly make for much acclaim, does it?  Even though it came out some time ago, I had to give it some props here.  
All I knew of the band beforehand was that a member or two of mellow prog-rock band Glass Hammer were involved, but not being a prog-head, that meant nothing to me.  So I was pleasantly surprised by the killer music that flowed forth....rockin' keyboards ala Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, bass and drumwork reminiscent of old Rush, guitar-playing that draws fresh ideas from influences like Kiss, Nugent, and Sabbath, solid vocals often like Machine Head-era Deep Purple, and an early Yes aura working its way in at times.  Galloping, adrenaline-filled riff fests with mood and tempo changes galore, old-fashioned and accessible enough for the classic hard rock fan but fresh, creative, and heavy enough to expand the modern guy's musical tastes as well.  All but one of the songs might have been written almost 20 years ago, but the production is up to today's top standards.  Sometimes they teeter on the brink of trying to cram too many riffs in for no real reason, but they never quite fall into that trap.  These guys are professionals.  The songs hold together well (the almost 19-minute "All of the World" will no doubt tire some and exhilirate others), with lyrics that mix together fantasy and Biblical imagery.  In "Lizards," they imagine witnessing the fall of Satan (mixing up the usual order of events and repeating themselves, but...):   
    Jesus took Satan's hand  
    And cast him from Paradise  
    He had caused sin in the eyes of man  
    'You will have your world of fools'  
    He said to his face  
    I heard him say again as he walked away.
And with "One Wizard," they tell a cool story, although its meaning is hard to discern:   
    On a moonless night on the misty moor he can be seen from the distant shore.  
    The Wizard sits with head bent low.  His voice can be heard as the soft winds blow.  
    Does he chant to the devil for some lost soul?  Does he chant to the spirits for a pot of gold?  
    Does he chant for things yet unseen?  Only the Wizard knows what the chant will bring...
This is a great, overlooked album--a nice synthesis of  top of the line musicianship with accessible songs and a creative lyrical/conceptual direction.  

By Josh Spencer