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Album Reviews : Electric Wizard – Black Masses

By on January 28, 2011

Black Masses is the latest release from seminal Doom overlords Electric Wizard, one of the most respected in the entire Doom genre; their cult hit album Dopethrone being a direct lineal descendant to the framework established by Doom forefather’s Black Sabbath. However, Electric Wizard drag the corpse of the original Doom sound through a miasma of swirling, blackened, psychedelia making them a much more foreboding and occult version of Sabbath.

Comparisons aside, Jus Oborn (Wizards only original member) in the seventeen years of the bands existence, has created a unique beast in its own right. The guitars hiss and drone with tar-thick riffs, the brontosaurus-heavy bass lines reverberate around your skull while the effect-laden vocals and samples add another layer of paranoia to the listening experience.

On previous album Witchcult Today, Electric Wizard took a different approach to the sound outlined previously, as the band shortened tracks into a more palatable verse/chorus structure. The vocals were pushed to the forefront of the mix and Oborn’s drug-addled wail became more coherent and less reverb drenched than on any of the previous recordings. This was not the bands attempt at breaking into the mainstream, as the songs still contained the usual Wizard-isms, albeit in, dare I say; a more refined state.

For the most part, this change in structure worked with great effect, producing some of the most memorable songs the band has ever created such as “Dunwich”,”The Chosen Few” and “Torquemada 71” all containing larva like chorus’ which lodged themselves in your brain and immerge fully formed after repeat listens.

Prior to the release of Black Masses, my initial expectation was that the Wizard would continue down the same path established on Witchcult Today and release another album full of succinct Doom rockers. However, upon listening to the latest LP my expectations were unfounded.

Instead, Black Masses amps up the queasy psychedelic sound tenfold. The band has been laborious with the production and it shows. This album aches to be listened to with headphones on, in the candle-lit darkness (akin to the album cover) and preferably not on a full stomach. The reason being; this LP contains the queasiest mix I have heard this side of a Sunn O))) record. The drums and guitars bubble and belch forth from the lava-like production. The vocals and guitar riffs fade in and out of the mix, resulting in a churning uneasiness which exists throughout the album (see “The Nightchild” for a perfect example). The solos found throughout are a definite highlight as they claw their way through the suffocating mix.

The otherworldly sense of eeriness mentioned above really unveils itself after a few spins of the album. Highlights come in the form of ‘Black Masses”, “Venus in Furs” and “Satyr IX”, with the latter containing vocals similar to those of Patrick Walker of Warning fame. The downside to the production is that the snare and bass drums on numerous tracks tend to be dro(w)ned out, with only the ride cymbal providing a beacon through the haze. Whether this is intentional or not is unknown, but it seems that the band has sacrificed heaviness in the literal sense for overall atmosphere.

This album is an interesting addition to the already acclaimed discography of Electric Wizard, whether or not it stands the test of time compared to past releases is up for debate. However, one thing is clear Electric Wizard has created a unique aura of malevolence with Black Masses and has taken an unexpected and entirely different approach to that of Witchcult Today.

Lesson learnt; expect the unexpected.

Band: Electric Wizard
Album: Black Masses
Year: 2010
Genre: Stoner/Doom
Origin: UK
Label:  Rise Above Records
http://www.myspace.com/electricwizarddorsetdoom

Track listing:
1. Black Mass
2. Venus in Furs
3. The Nightchild
4. Patterns of Evil
5. Satyr IX
6. Turn Off Your Mind
7. Scorpio Curse
8. Crypt of Dragula

About

Mitch Booth is the owner, designer and grand overlord of Metal Obsession. In the few seconds of spare time he has outside of this site, he also hosts a metal radio show over on PBS 106.7fm in Melbourne (Australia) and organises shows under the name Untitled Touring. You should follow him on Twitter.