The rather oddly named Wizrd are another interesting bunch from Norway who are hard to pigeonhole, and that’s nearly always a good thing in my book. Sonically they employ retro-sounding instrumentation, but what they do with those instruments is more forward thinking. Half the band (Axel Skalstad on drums, and Vegard Lien Bjerkan on keyboards) are members of Soft Ffog, who come out of the Norwegian modern jazz scene, and although there is definitely a jazz element to Wizrd, it’s not the dominant element. The rest of the line-up comprises Hallvard Gaardløs (Spidergawd) on bass and vocals, and guitarist Karl Bjorå (Megalodon Collective), and together they have created a debut album, Seasons, which is something very tasty indeed.
Much of the musical landscape really rocks with Skalstad testing the limits of his drum kit, and driving bass from Gaardløs, a high energy union to get the feet tapping and the head nodding. More than once this relentless rhythm is overlaid with paradoxically slow dreamy harmony vocals, as on the first track Lessons, and the effect is very pleasing. Add to this the intricate guitar and keyboard interplay from Bjorå and Bjerkan respectively, as they reel off complex riffs and runs, and you have a feast of sounds for the mind to engage with. The band strike a delicate balance between tight and disciplined playing, and free ranging improvisation, and this combination of dexterity and intuitive flair is the hallmark of this record.
Free Will follows hot on the heels of Lessons, and it’s another intricately played rocker in a similar vein, and Spitfire completes the opening triumvirate, a headlong rush of fiery freneticism, guitar and keys vying for supremacy. Things then get a little less rushed as Wizrd stretch out for two longer workouts, where a simple bass figure provides a platform on which Bjorå and Bjerkan play extended solos. The first All is as it Should Be is in a more psychedelic vein, and despite being more relaxed in feel, doesn’t mean that Alex Skalstad doesn’t still give the drums a good thrashing, and it occurs to me that he might need a bit of a lie down at the end of the album.
Elsewhere there is a funk groove to Fire & Water with a free and easy feel, and guest vocals from White Denim’s James Petralli, before things take a more mysterious turn on Divine. It begins with a hard rhythm to pin down as Skalstad dials down the energy output just a tad, and an echoey weird soundscape appears with arresting vocals from Gaardløs and strange guitar runs up and down the fretboard. It has a floaty bridge which has a touch of Flaming Lips about it. Things then deconstruct into an almost ambient section which segues beautifully into the last track, When You Call, which closes the album wonderfully atmospherically. The whole flow of the album works brilliantly as it moves through its various moods, but this last song is elegiac and a perfect closing track.
I’d like to think this record might turn a few heads, as Wizrd deserve a listen. The way they take guitar, organ, bass, drums and vocals, and find something different to say is encouraging, and I hope they continue to plough this particular productive furrow. It’s not so much that they sound radically different to other bands, but neither do they bring to mind any one in particular. That’s a little win!
01. Lessons (4:10)
02. Free Will (4:43)
03. Spitfire (4:59)
04. All is as it Should Be (8:09)
05. Show Me What You Got (7:44)
06. Fire & Water (3:40)
07. Divine (6:03)
08. When You Call (4:24)
Total Time – 47:52
Hallvard Gaardløs – Bass, Lead Vocals
Karl Bjorå – Guitar, Vocals
Vegard Lien Bjerkan – Keyboards, Vocals
Axel Skalstad – Drums
James Petralli – Vocals (track 6)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Norway
Date of Release: 21st October 2022