Look back on how my musical taste expanded throughout the years, there are certain albums that stick out to me, ones that changed how I thought and felt about music altogether. Albums like Radiohead’s Kid A and Godspeed’s F♯ A♯ ∞ redefined what I liked about music, and opened new doors to genres I would have never been introduced to. Among these few albums that transformed my perception of music is Wanzwa’s self-titled release from 2011.
Wanzwa is a one-man project from guitarist Marty Eason, who, in my opinion, lets his brain spill out with every Wanzwa album. They’re hypnotic, helter-skelter beasts of musical amusement that push the boundaries of what instrumental metal is. The debut of Wanzwa was an immediate favorite of mine, because it was metal composition that was whole and unique, free of any limitation because the point Wanzwa set out to make is that it had none. It was heavy and technical, full of pounding riffs, but paired it with an experimental, trippy aesthetic that gave Wanzwa legs to stand on.
RELEASE DATE: 01 January 2016 LABEL: Self-released
With the later releases of Wanzwa II and Wanzwa III, the approach leaned heavily on more experimental and jazzy pursuits. I liked both releases, but I still felt that Wanzwa was my favorite release – until now. Wanzwa IV takes the heavy, progressive songwriting of the first album and blends it seamlessly with the more focused experimental feel of later releases. In my opinion, it is the best sound that Wanzwa have ever achieved, and it is one of the most refreshing instrumental releases to come out in the metal scene this year.
This album shows off its distinct sound from the start with a booming and swirling loop of bass and percussion that shapeshifts into the first riff of Wanzwa IV. This project has never shied away from long songs, and the seven minute orchestrated pandemonium that “Skeleton Key to the Matrix” is explodes with instrumental prowess and punishing guitar tones. Instrumental metal has somewhat lost the heavy appeal that defined its inception, and this album is finally bringing it back into the limelight. But this album doesn’t stop there, it transforms the concept of what heavy is, expanding to a wider lens for creating songs that are simultaneously direct and straight-forward yet complex and technical in nature.
Digging deeper into the album, you’ll find a 9-minute epic titled “Naked Fist Fights With Your Dad”, full of explosive solos and mind-bending time signatures. The album is full of funny, inappropriate song titles, like “Wesley Crusher’s Holodeck Porn Stash” or “The Ministry of Propoganda”. You can insult them for the lack of professionalism on this front, but that would be just as silly as the titles themselves. In my opinion, the titles are a friendly reminder that the sole purpose of music is for enjoyment, and taking music too seriously can ruin the art. The titles promote fun, and that’s what you should feel when you listen to this album.
The aesthetic of this release can only be described in the moments that follow a car crash – the world spirals away into blurs and hues, spinning endlessly your brain struggles for something to hold on to but there is nothing but confusion and a complete loss of control. This is not “just another Wanzwa album”, this is Wanzwa IV. Please, put on your seatbelt.