In an age where the line between dewy-eyed nostalgia and unashamed imitation is becoming blurred – we’re looking at you Greta Van Fleet – bands who dare to cherry pick the sum parts of their heroes and plot an original course should be praised. Glitter Wizard, whose latest full-length outing – Opera Villains (Heavy Psych Sounds) – aims to hit the high notes from its wide range of influences, are a spandex-clad bunch of psychedelia-indebted miscreants who have set out to do just that.
Unfortunately, while Glitter Wizard are clearly intrepid in bringing together elements of Hawkwind, Deep Purple and even a smattering of Led Zeppelin, the end result is more a shallow pastiche of the seventies instead of the updated, twisted homage they were clearly aiming for, which is a shame because Opera Villains has moments that nod to how much fun this whole outing could have been.
The squirts of intergalactic synth layered throughout ‘Hall of the Oyster King’, the campy overwrought – dare I say, Creeper-like – vocals on ‘Rats’ and the ‘Highway Star’-gallop of ‘Ten Foot Man’ are proof positive that ‘Wizard have an ear for the sort of flourishes that made Rock’s greatest decade (fight me, bro) so entertaining.
They clearly aren’t a band who take themselves too seriously – between song titles like ‘Hall of the Oyster King’, a nod to King Crimson‘s most revered work, and the smattering of tripped-out and bizarre music videos you can find on the web, they’re not in danger of being called po-faced any time soon. Fundamentally though, once you strip away these side winks to fans of psychedelia and the half a dozen moments of genuine musical flair on the record, it’s clear just how superficial Opera Villains actually is.
There are a few parts of this album where Glitter Wizard manage to lay down a decent guitar lick (‘A Spell So Evil’) or an alluring vocal hook, only for the track never to turn into something more cohesive. At some points on this record, the band is clearly threatening proggier territory but unlike some of the brilliant latter-days prog cuts from the likes of Beardfish, it feels like …Villains is happy just to meander without daring to risk coming back to motifs that worked particularly well.
Perhaps the biggest example of the record’s lack of direction are the two throwaway instrumental pieces (less tracks, more prolonged song intros) – ‘March of the Red Cloaks’ and ‘Prelude to a Duel’ – which fail to add anything at all to proceedings. In an album that clocks in at just over half an hour, songs clearly designed to fill time are basically unacceptable. The thing is, it’s easy to imagine Glitter Wizard blazing a trail in a live setting. Between the smattering of well-written riffs and the band’s clear ear for passages that will please nostalgia-hunters, there’s not much here that you wouldn’t tap along to with a beer in hand. It’s a shame that the true enjoyment to be had from this record ends there.
5 / 10