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Wizard Smoke: The Speed of Smoke  

Self-released

Wizard Smoke's second coming weaves the doom and marijuana riffage of its Live Rock in Hell debut, with prog tendencies that carry the music to higher places. The production is stepped up all around, from songwriting and conceptualization to the overall sound and depth of the recording. "Dead Wood" and "Butcher" open the album as a pair of solid post-Sabbath face-melters. James Halcrow's apocalyptic shriek gets a Vocoder in "Weakling," creating a mercurial feel. There is a detectable cheese factor hiding amid such lyrics as "Vultures perched in high trees, surveying the ground," as heard on "Growing," but it's all part of Wizard Smoke's style. The album's strongest asset is that each song brings something different to the blackened, oceanic metal rhythms, but it's bound by an underlying dirge that peaks with "Witches Brew." It's a monolithic conclusion to a terse album that expands upon Wizard Smoke's already wicked charge, making the band's sound so much greater than the sum of it's doom-laden, stoner-rock parts. (4 out of 5 stars)

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