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Various Artists – The Years Around The Wizard

Various Artists
The Years Around The Wizard
by MetalWim at 02 February 2023, 1:47 PM

This is a compilation album that revolves around the Dutch Heavy Metal band DARK WIZARD. Around the time they released their first album “Reign Of Evil”, which was in 1985, they had been quite active in around their hometown Vroomshoop. Before and after that time the members of DARK WIZARD were also connected to other bands. The first one being BLIAND. When the current vocalist of DARK WIZARD, Egbert Berenst, caught wind of the fact that there was going to be a reissue of that band’s recordings, he contacted the record company and asked if they would be interested in adding some other bands from his home town. He could ask, as he is in possession of an insane amount of cassette tapes with recordings of the last 4 years (at least) and he had started digitalising a lot of interesting stuff. Something he is still doing, and probably will till his dying day. That’s how much he has.

Headbangers Records and Big Bad Wolf Records jumped at the chance, and the result, “The Years Around The Wizard”, was released on December 16th 2022. It is quite the collection, and showcases how many bands there were back then, and that they weren’t exactly bad. No, they won’t have you breaking the bank because of their innovativeness either, but they were solid, and very typical of the eighties.

The reason that BLIAND was going to be reissued is clear right from the start. Their Bluesy Hard Rocking music is very pleasant to listen to and the eight songs that make up the first CD take 33 minutes to delve themselves into your brain. If you want a reference, think early BODINE. The vocals really fit the music, and the production is quite sufficient for the time.

The second CD starts with nine songs DUST, clocking almost  minutes. I have to say that this also is rather good, as the music is quite okay. Straight forward rather fast Heavy Metal with female vocals. What they do right is give you enough variation to keep you interested throughout it all. The sound might be considered okay, but in my opinion they could have cleaned it up just a tad, as the background noise that you get from cassette tapes is very much existent. If you are listening through your headphones, that can be quite distracting.

The last four songs of CD2, clocking just over 20 minutes, are by EXIT. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this. The instrumental start is very impressive, and will pique your interest right away. after a while the female vocals kick in, and the combination of a little bit of Blues and lots of Heavy Metal will have you listening intently. I have to admit that I wouldn’t have minded if they had kept this without vocals, as they take away some of attention from the very able guitar parts. And yes, again the sound isn’t brilliant, but very typical for bands from that era. You have to remember that the technical possibilities were far less back then.

CD3 takes off with a very interesting band, CRUMMY. They have actually done some reunion gigs, and when listening to them you can see why. Their version of Bluesrock has that nice edge that will make you sing along. The fact that their three songs are played live only proves that they were very good musicians. So, they don’t do their name justice, as they’re too good to be called crummy.

The following band is ILLUSION, and they have the same kind of vibe, although they are lot more Metal than Rock. Again, they have that eighties vibe and sound, which might sound very outdated to a lot of the youngsters, but is surprisingly relevant to the people who actually witnessed those musical days, like me. The real charm is hearing that there was no room for enough takes to get everything perfect. It only adds to the authenticity. Their five songs clock just over twenty minutes, just enough.

BLACK SUN is the next band on the list, and they are easily the heaviest of the lot. They have the riffs like BUDGIE used to have, but sound a lot heavier than their Welsh peers, although it’s hard to distinguish it all. That is due to the poor sound quality, making the bass the most important instrument. But when you have listened a few times, you just have to admit that they have used their 12 minutes of fame wisely.

The last 12 minutes of this compilation are reserved for REVENGE. As for being heavy, they really give BLACK SUN a run for their money. They add two songs, although they are classed as one on the CD itself. They play rather fast and simple, but very effective, Heavy Metal, and again the sound lets them down. Which is a pity, because I feel that with a good sound this could have been sensational. The rather deranged female vocals give them a slight punky vibe. I have to say that REVENGE have impressed me the most of all the bands, so Egbert, if you have more by them, I really would like to hear more!

All together this is a beautiful documentation of what Vroomshoop had to offer in the eighties Heavy Metal wise. The bands were quite able and had enough quality to make an impression if necessary. It is therefore a pity they couldn’t back in the day. They also won’t now, but they can at least show the world what they were capable of. I praise the record companies for having the balls to release this. I enjoyed listening to it. Let’s hope a lot more people do.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 7
Memorability: 7
Production: 5

3 Star Rating

1. California
2. Freedom
3. Keep On Loving Me
4. King Klark
5. Lover In The Night
6. Mercy
7. Music
8. What A Lady Would Like

1. Don’t Break The Chains
2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Desire
3. Ashes To Ashes, Dust To Dust
4. You’ve Got A Reason To Know
5. Cheating Lie
6. Play The Game
7. Still Your Own
8. Dreamer
9. You Better Run
10. Burn Away The Goodness
11. Freedom Fighter
12. Holy Blind
13. When The Stars Are Falling

1. Everything That I Want
2. Future’s Calling
3. Natural Emotion
4. I’m A Free Man
5. Illusion
6. Pull You Down
7. Pushing
8. Transparent
9. Burn Away The Goodness
10. Dirty Old Man
11. Stole My Heart
12. Evil
13. Under The Table
Black Sun
Record Label: Headbangers Records/Big Bad Wolf Records


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