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To bring it to the end. - 55%

Diamhea, December 7th, 2017

It has been a while since we checked in on Wizard, and despite the artwork alluding to some sort of throwback to Odin's lyrical fare, this is actually perhaps the group's most straightforward record ever. Nearly all of the songs revolve around "raise your fist" heavy metal tropes, brotherhood and other typical themes. It can be extremely cheesy, and Wizard aren't averse to treading these waters, but Fallen Kings has some serious problems, forcing me to throw these guys to the wolves for the first time ever - and I hate to do it.

...of Wariwulfs and Bluotvarwes wasn't that long ago, but it seems like eons have passed due to the band's sudden and confounding refusal to pen memorable choruses. D'Anna sounds as soaring and forceful as ever, and the record is a sonically tight experience - although it does sound perhaps a bit too cleaned up and antiseptic for a gruff band like Wizard. Regardless, the band seems to be playing things extremely safe, following the same formula for virtually every song, rushing to the chorus, which then falls flat every time. Songs like "Wizard Until the End" and "Let Us Unite" tease with some uplifting riffing progressions, and you can almost feel the song come to a head, only to collapse upon itself at the refrain. This has to have been a conscious decision, perhaps to sound "darker," and another band falls prey to this common fluke.

Picking out standouts is difficult, but "Liar and Betrayer" is a fairly succinct, compact opener that gets things started well enough, and "Brothers in Spirit" has something more going on, being the only song that I figured well enough to return to repeatedly. "Live Your Life" stands out for being longer, but this extra length does the band no favors other than drawing out another bland tune. Leads are sparse, and when they appear they don't exactly save the day. Remember "Messenger of Death?" Where is that melodic grandeur? I hate to keep recalling older records, but damn, even Magic Circle runs circles around Fallen Kings.

Don't get me wrong, Wizard are still a very tight unit, and the album is easy enough to listen to, but I expect much more from these guys. If the band wants to espouse such self-referential lyrical fare, they need to make sure the actual songwriting is on point. Let's just hope this one is a bump in the road, because the band might not be able to recover if they don't get back to what works.