Dr. Haze & The Wise Lizardz debut album And Beyond was released on 13th November and the best way to describe the experience is cinematic stoner rock. The album’s narration explores big themes such as the path to enlightenment and wisdom inspired by the Upanishad and Bhagavad Gita Hindu scripts. While it’s melodic, sometimes sparse, and sometimes riff-heavy, the soundscape pushes the evolution throughout the awakened Lizard universe. It’s an album that should only be consumed from start to finish so the review below is only part of a much larger journey the album is able to deliver.
Just before we jump into the remainder of the review, Dr. Haze & The Wise Lizardz consists of Dr. Haze on vocals, guitar and sitar, Hazard on drums and backing vocals, and Weezard on bass, keyboards, and backing vocals. The band’s choice to use characterisation adds to the overall story and experience but may have caused some confusion to the readers when referencing Dr. Haze the singer versus Dr. Haze & The Wise Lizardz the band. I hope that clears that up.
The curtain slowly rises on the album as Snow breathes and swirls almost entirely around Dr. Haze’s vocals and clean guitar for just over five minutes. Upon first listen, you may be tempted to think ‘when will this album start’ but after hearing the entire long-player a few times, those first few notes brilliantly prepare the listener for the acts to follow. Other bands tend to start their albums as loud as they can, so not only is it a great contrast, the track evokes a similar response to watching the first scenes of your favourite movie.
Patience is rewarded as act two introduces the new characters of drums, bass, fuzzy guitars, and sitar over its eight-minute run time. The aptly named song Wake Up builds from Snow’s vibe until it unleashes an early Truckfighter-esque stoner rock jam that somehow becomes a sitar driven middle eastern experience. As effortlessly as the energy curve drives through these moments, Dr. Haze & The Wise Lizardz move back into cleaner tones and dream-like vocal melodies which eventually lead into the beautiful melancholy of track three, Temple. In a way, the notes on Dr. Haze’s guitar express more of the story, while the vocals are merely narrating what is happening in the melodies.
Dr. Haze’s guitar express more of the story, while the vocals are merely narrating what is happening in the melodies…
Open The Gate starts with the low end leading the way signalling change is in the air. The chorus line of ‘open up the gate and let the light in’ perfectly sums up the entire And Beyond experience and the song itself has all the hallmarks of a quintessential Dr. Haze & The Wise Lizardz track. It’s heavier for longer than most, yet still finds time for new characters, such as octave chanting and percussion sections from Hazard and Weezard. Just like your favourite scene from a movie as mentioned earlier, this is a track that will bring you back to press play from the beginning again and again.
As Open The Gate finishes, single note keys ring out to morph into the cornerstone of Fire Lizard. It’s a remarkable experience as the two songs meet together briefly, only for the Fire Lizard to start to take its own shape and purpose, eventually building to a well-crafted guitar lead backed by distorted bass and stomping drums.
The shorter penultimate track The Path sets the listener up for the big finale in Bridge Of Light. Opening with a level of playful optimism, contrasting where we started as the curtain raised in Snow, and the return of the sitar gives the listener a sense of coming full circle. Later in the song, the vocals are sung choir-like that eventually give way to a powerful guitar lead bringing to a close the epic journey of self-enlightenment.
And Beyond has a revolving door of great characters across the album as its grand vision is realised without being overproduced, or formula copied from track to track. A lot of progressive albums get better with repeat listens but this album not only enhances the experience, it also opens the door for new tangents to evolve. It’s a remarkable release and worth the investment.
Scribed by: Maxx