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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Wicked Wisdom

Wicked Wisdom

Review by Gary Hill

Have you heard of Wicked Wisdom? Well, you may have seen them at Ozzfest last year. You may have also heard the name just based on one of the members of the group. Jada Pinkett Smith (not only famous in her own right, but also because of her husband Will Smith) is one of the members of this outfit, providing the lead vocals. It seems probable that her fame has helped this band to get a bit of a leg up in publicity and landing that slot on Ozzfest. I know there were a lot of people who thought that, and were ticked off, when they were named to play the festival. I have to say that in some ways I do think that the band has gotten a bit too easy of a ride - and it has hurt them a little musically. That said, don't think this band is talentless and without merit - they aren't. I've certainly heard worse bands at Ozzfest in the past. I do think, though, that if they had had to work a little harder at it, they might have fixed some of the problems with this good, but not great, disc.

The first issue at hand here is really the arrangement of the songs on the disc. The opening few tracks are amongst the weakest on show here. I can tell you from my own experience that the casual listener might only give the first couple a chance and then shut if off thinking that it's a lousy CD. I know I did at first. The thing is, once you get past those first few numbers, there are some very intriguing tracks on show here. The sound of the band seems to encompass all sorts of musical styles from nu-metal to rap metal, classic rock, classic metal and a whole lot more. While not everything works like a charm, there are plenty of moments that do gel well enough to make this release an interesting one. The other real problem with the album is that a lot of it sounds a lot like the rest. I have to say that I've never heard a combination of sounds quite like this one. It should be noted for those offended by foul language, though - it would be best to steer clear of this CD.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Yesterday Don't Mean
A fast paced Sabbath-like bass line gives way to a frantic thrashy jam. This breaks down to a staccato sort of rap-metal type verse, but the fast and furious returns for the chorus. A very tasty instrumental break with more Sabbath like textures takes it later. This one is mean and raw and very ferocious.
Something Inside of Me
This one has a mean and gritty nu-metal texture with spoken/screamed chanted vocals on the verse. The chorus has an anthemic feel with a sung vocal line. This one hammers hard and is not as tasty as the previous number, but has some definite meat to it nonetheless. A chaotic, noisy, off kilter jam takes it later to nice effect. This one is more dynamic than the disc opener with several interesting changes taking it. They manage to pull it together into a meaty jam for the closing segments.
One
This one pounds in, then a spoken vocal comes over atop the stripped down backdrop. It feels like hammers hitting concrete through a lot of the track and the vocals fall into a nearly rap metal nu-type format, but the fast paced, stream of consciousness segment of lyrical ranting is quite cool. There is also a nice Zeppelinesque riff later.
Bleed All Over Me
Keyboard sounds begin this one in the first real change up of the disc. The vocals come in, sung, over this backdrop and carry it in this fashion for a time before the fury returns. This time it feels a bit like bands like Lacuna Coil and Evanescence. They drop it back to the more sedate for the verses, but pound out the choruses. With it's somewhat more accessible approach and just by virtue of the variety it brings in, this is the strongest cut on show thus far. There is also a killer Sabbath-like grind later that works very well. I really like this one a lot.
Cruel Intentions
This one plods in heavier than anything we've heard thus far, then cranks out to another quick paced jam. This is actually one of the stronger cuts on the disc, but suffers a bit from familiarity, feeling too much like a lot of the other stuff. This one would have made a better disc opener. The combination of the sung/chanted vocals and the potent heavy jamming is really quite interesting. The heavy jam later and the Zep/Sab like riff that emerges with the vocals out of it is especially effective. This includes some death metal growls later. It is another winner.
You Can't Handle
This one comes in frantic and heavy, and then drops to just rhythm and vocals to carry forward. A cool tasty jam eventually emerges over top of this before they explode back out into the fury.
Forgiven
A mellower, rough balladic style makes up most of this track. Even when it heavies up, it's still in an anthemic ballad approach, albeit a bit rough around the edges, but in a tasty way. This one makes for a nice change of pace. It's one of the most intriguing songs on the disc just on the strength of its variety.
Set Me Free
Weird sounds start this one off, then a creepy sort of jam gradually emerges, quite mellow. Almost cheery sung vocals come over top for an interesting contrast. This one moves as an odd mellow track for a time, and then bursts into more heavy nu-metal jamming for the chorus. It even includes a segment where it drops back to just piano (granted a weird, horror movie sounding piano). They drop it back later to a spoken verse. It turns into a cacophonic, but very tasty bit of weirdness in the last segments of the piece. This is another highlight of the disc with an unusual texture that works quite well. As odd as it is, it might be the best cut on the album. It is definitely the longest at nearly five minutes.
Don't Hate Me
One of the coolest riffs of the disc starts this one in a fashion that is part nu-metal and part Faith No More. This is another of the strongest cuts on the disc. They should have put some of this material on earlier as it would have been a good idea to start the disc stronger. Death metal screams come over the top at points. And this one has some killer staccato hardcore like sounds interspersed.
Reckoning
Meaty nu-metal sounds make up this track. It has some seriously tasty riffing, It's another of the stronger ones on the disc, and makes for a strong closer. It's just a bit too much like a lot of the other stuff here.
 
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