Gygax will forever be known as the group who took their name from the the dude who invented Dungeons & Dragons. Despite this, and it took three albums to get to this point, it’s time to stop looking at the band as a gimmick.
The band still indulges in lyrical tributes to RPGs – “Mage Lust” uses the game as flirtatious innuendo (it likely takes a real dungeon master to pull that off) and “Spell Shaker” seems the natural conclusion to “Dice Throwers & Rock n’ Rollers” from last year’s 2nd Edition release. That’s a given because a good author writes about what they know and it is clear they know their roles to play, so to speak.
But writing them off as a gimmick sells short the musicianship here, something which is expanded greatly this time out. They still love Thin Lizzy, another thing that will likely never change. “Light Bender” and “Hide Mind” rekindle the classic rock staple’s twin guitar boogie while “Mirror Image” replicates the epic, rollicking “Cowboy Song” side of the group.
This time out there’s more than Phil Lynott and Scott Gorham. “Acquisition, Magnus Canis” is an instrumental consisting mostly of noirish horns (much more so than “Song of the Silverhands” from the last album) while “Something So Familiar” as well as the chunky riff and sneaky shuffle of “The Eyes Have It” evokes Van Halen’s party rock, which is fitting fare for this California crew to emulate.
The songs are not quite as punchy and immediate as on the predecessor but Gygax somewhat makes up for that with a more diversified sound. More importantly, the band’s infectious enthusiasm makes it very obvious this is not just a game to them anymore.