It’s hard to believe that heavy metal was invented 50 years ago, but it’s not at all hard to believe that Black Sabbath would continue to influence and inspire bands today. Sabbath always sounded best (to these ears) when soulful vocals soared over bluesy riffs, and Kult of the Wizard recognizes this truth. Mahle Roth belts out all her lines with passionate conviction, and strong vocals are great, but stoner doom bands will fail without strong riffs to support. Aaron Hodgson makes sure these songs are jam packed with sweet, leafy riffage, and the rhythm section does not slouch, but the hook here is Roth. The band originated as an instrumental band but struck, uh, gold, back in 2015 when they added Roth and released The White Wizard.
“Holy and Divine” feels like filler, but it aligns with past Kult of the Wizard releases that have a similar short interlude. The track could’ve been much shorter (or rewritten as an outro or intro to the songs around it) and been just as effective. “Beyond the Sea” starts almost inaudibly and meanders through a slow solo guitar and Roth’s reverbed and harmonized vocals. As it snuck in, the song slinks away just as quietly. Are Kult of the Wizard all rocked out?
In this modern age of ‘loudness wars’ and a general lack of true dynamics on albums, it’s nice that Kult of the Wizard embrace the old school and put actual quiet moments on the record. “Into the Void,” the album’s standout centerpiece and longest track, creeps forebodingly forward from the silence and takes a good three and half minutes before any distortion joins the party. Even then, the riffs stagger slowly forward as Roth sings with swagger. Near the end of the track, the void closes in and massive riffs collide with some guest harsh vocals hidden behind layers of Mahle’s roar. Kult of the Wizard have plenty of rock left to give.
The stripped down, bluesy influences are embraced in the dark “My Home is Fine.” By the time a distorted guitar rains down, the song has become a full staggering dirge. A few of the vocal lines waiver on dissonant notes, but this is only a minor misstep in an otherwise massive song. As a proper closer, “Queen of Life & Death” has Roth singing low and slow over somber piano chords. These naked moments highlight her most charismatic and goosebump-inducing lines, and the softer songs easily match the power of the rocking loud ones.
Gold ends with a bonus track of a faithful Tom Petty cover of “Honey Bee,” that neither offends nor excites, but the original lyrics with gender-swapped vocals provides a few entertaining lines. It is a good reminder to listen to more Tom Petty, who rocks harder than you remember. Kult of the Wizard tells their bandcamp listeners, “This album is intended to be listened [from] start to finish,” so they should also be judged on the full album experience. Gold encapsulates the growth of Kult of the Wizard from a Black Sabbath worshipping and formerly instrumental doom band, to something more unique and powerful with the addition of Mahle Roth and the range she brings. Gold is a bold step forward from The White Wizard, and there’s tons of killer and minimal filler to highly recommend the album to anyone who loves melancholy doom, Black Sabbath, and the sweet leaf. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another five years before the Kult indoctrinates us back into the void again.