Harry Potter. Merlin. Gandalf. The Wizard Of Oz. Rincewind. Dr Strange. Everybody loves a wizard. None more so than the people who write heavy metal songs, so we put on our robes with the big sleeves and summoned the most arcane knowledge from the universe in return for a really good playlist of wizard-themed songs.
There are rules, though. We’re aware there’s a musical subset of Harry Potter fandom called ‘wizard rock’, but it’s just a lot of twee amateur fumbling. Also, we’re not accepting songs in which ‘wizard’ is used solely as a metaphor – sorry Tommy. Or the band Wizzard.
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11. Overlorde – Ogre Wizard (2004)
An irresistible singalong from these New Jersey-based veteran metal warriors who released one EP in 1987 and a startlingly excellent debut album 17 years later. The 2004 LP proved this cult quartet still had plenty of new fun to offer, especially this squealing rampage about a bloodthirsty wizard and his band of fighting ogres.
10. Uriah Heep – The Wizard (1973)
Uriah Heep were one of the earliest metal bands, unfashionably revelling in their own very ’eaviness with their 1970 debut title. However, their Wizard was a mystical ballad, virtually a love song to “the wizard of a thousand kings”. Like the titular character in the Sabbath song of the same name, Heep’s wizard has a whiff of the hippy guru about him, declaring “Everybody’s got to be happy” and “know the joy of life and peace that love can bring.”
9. Legend – The Wizard’s Vengeance (1979)
Early adopters of the heavy metal umlaut, these short-lived Connecticut Vikings released one heinously rare, quietly innovative LP of true cult epic HM before disappearing back into the shadows. Only 500 copies were pressed and the album has never been officially reissued, yet Slough Feg later covered this ripping yarn about a wizard returning to overthrow the king after fifteen years of “mixing potions, sifting powders” and “experiments of bloody torture.”
8. Blind Guardian – Wizard’s Crown (1988)
A thrilling burst of raw 80s sorcery, Wizard’s Crown was actually a rewrite of the first song on the band’s first demo from 1985, released under their previous name Lucifer’s Heritage. Originally it was called Halloween, and concerned vampires rather than wizards. This version’s protagonist plans to usurp the wizard on Halloween (when else?), but his mind can’t contain such powerful secrets. Some say the wizard is Aleister Crowley, others think Sauron…
7. Megadeth – Five Magics (1990)
Megadeth mainman and as-yet-unborn-again Christian Dave Mustaine has one last stab at summoning occult sorceries on this key text in metal wizard lore. “Bestow upon me knowledge, wizard all-knowing, all wise,” MegaDave implored – except on the re-recorded 2004 remaster, when he decided magic was more important. Any all-knowing, all-wise wizard would have advised him not to re-record it in the first place.
6. Emperor – I Am The Black Wizards (1994)
There’s an aura of cryptic sorcery throughout all of Emperor’s legendary debut, most explicitly in the mind-boggling grammar of this grandiose proclamation. “My wizards are many, but their essence is mine,” shrieks Ishahn, with lyrics by Mortiis. Both men were barely 18 years old, so we can forgive them for bragging about it.
5. Municipal Waste – The Mountain Wizard (2003)
No mucking about from Virginian crossover thrashers Municipal Waste, who take little over a minute to present the story of a misanthropic wizard casting a spell of destruction on the human race. Earthquakes, lightning and fire rain down with a wave of his staff, and he smiles as he counts the bodies; “Heed the fucking wizard” is the advice to take away from this one.
4. Rhapsody – Magic Of The Wizard’s Dream (2004)
The Italian masters of Baroque symphonic fantasy got Christopher Lee into metal with this song, casting the legendary actor as the Wizard King narrator on four albums and inviting him back to sing on the 2005 single - including the French, German and Italian versions. The experience excited the great man so much he launched his own symphonic metal project aged 88.
3. Reverend Bizarre – Fucking Wizard (2005)
We find Reverend Bizarre’s Albert Witchfinder at his randiest on this Sabbathian doom dirge by the much-missed Finns, declaring himself “the warlock of carnal lust” and exhaustively mining humorous juxtapositions between the worlds of smut and sorcery with lines like “With my magick I expel your demon, Divining Rod and Blessed Semen (whoa!)”, “I shall build my church inside your flesh” and, of course, “Darkness falls, penetrating my balls”.
2. Electric Wizard – Wizard In Black (1997)
The classic “drugs, sex, every sort of filth” sample from The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue doesn’t have much to do with wizardry, but it ushers in a cosmic horror tale concerning a megalomaniacal sorcerer of unimaginable power. Not content to just realign destiny, he summons “eye of ultra soul” whereupon “freedom rays awaken the chosen ones”. But what happened next? Feels like the wizard in black deserves a sequel…
1. Black Sabbath – The Wizard (1970)
Metal’s fascination with wizardry dates back to its adopted birthday, Friday 13th February 1970, the day Black Sabbath’s debut came out. Just after Satan comes around the bend, the titular enchanter appears out of the mist, but his magic is more benign than many subsequent heavy metal sorcerers. With his “funny clothes” and “tinkling bell”, it’s little wonder that “everyone’s happy when the wizard walks by.”