Sunday, April 1, 2012

Electric Wizard - Black Masses

 Black Masses

In the almighty Pantheon of Doom Metal, next to such immoveable pillars as Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus, there stands ELECTRIC WIZARD from Dorset, England.

Recognized as one of the greats of the genre, ELECTRIC WIZARD has a reputation to live up to. Recently, Jus Oborn and friends have returned with a killer new album titled Black Masses, further guaranteeing their tenure in the Pantheon. Black Masses, released in North America on January 18 via Rise Above Records, was produced by Grammy-winning engineer Liam Watson (THE WHITE STRIPES) in London’s Toe Rag Studios. Upon dropping the needle on this dangerous piece of wax, I expected quality production – something only found on newer releases from the band. Luckily, that’s precisely what I got - but I’m only “scratching the surface.”

At first listen, Black Masses serves as a good ELECTRIC WIZARD album, exhibiting an ever slumberous aura - something I have come to expect – along with all the Fuzzed-out, Blues-infused riffing I could ask for. Yet, after my third or fourth listen, it became clear that what makes Black Masses awesome is that the album neither solely relies on the titanic, weighty riffs of Dopethrone, nor the psychedelic atmosphere of Come My Fanatics. Rather, it kicks-off with a straight-forward, up-tempo title track and maintains a driving vibe for the first half of the record. The tracks on side-A follow a more accessible format as each includes a verse, chorus and solos. It picks up right where Witchcult Today left off, continuing to showcase a more consistently ordered, 70s sound. Jus Oborn really sings his ass off on this one, hitting higher pitches with a hint of vibrato in his voice. A couple of my favorite moments from side A are the guitar solo in ‘Night Child,’ and the aptly-titled song, ‘Turn Off Your Mind.’ Then, things change.

As I start to feel contented with the predictability of the first side of this already loud LP, the B sides are slower and HEAVIER. When ‘Satyr IX’ starts playing, plumes of volcanic ash might as well have come pouring from my speakers – it’s SO heavy! ‘Satyr IX’ displays ELECTRIC WIZARD in its true form, alluding back to some of the band’s earlier, more experimental stuff. The album closes with a 10 minute study on Drone* titled ‘Crypt of Drugula,’ a soggy and murky dwelling that some of us might have cerebrally visited once or twice.

“This ritual incantation of heavy metal sorcery will break down your psyche as wave upon crushing wave of lead weight acid-laced Doom leaves you numb and broken before our unholy altar," boasted bandleader Oborn. "Violent, bleak and ritualistic, we bow to the black altar of the RIFF. We do not rock, we kill!”

ELECTRIC WIZARD must have been feeling a little ambitious upon entering the studio to record Black Masses, as the more conventional arrangements and well-formed techniques proved to create a more accessible, yet ever enjoyable album. It’s obvious that ELECTRIC WIZARD can do anything it sets out to do – and do it well.

*a popular evolution of Doom Metal which aims to focus on, through tonal manipulation, the mechanical timbre of the instruments and amps used. Discernible melodies are sparse in Drone, hence the name, so an entire piece of music could rest on the tonic, thus allowing various competing frequencies to feedback off of each other.

-- Bones

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