Review Summary: The follow-up to 2007s "Witchcult Today", which captures Electric Wizard consolidating their sound into a more vocal based Stoner/Doom metal album.
Hailed as one of the best Doom/Stoner metal bands of recent times, Electric Wizard show progression to a more coherent sound, harking back to the 70s, and although “Black Masses” may not be their best release to date, it proves they still have more to offer us.
First of all may I state that “Black Masses” is not another “Dopethrone”. It does not focus so much on the colossal riffage of “Dopethrone”, or the atmospheric and trippy vibe of “Come My Fanatics”, but more the cohesiveness of the actual songs. Electric Wizard start where they left off from the end of “Witchcult Today”, with a drug-addled groove, which remains with the listener throughout nearly all of “Black Masses”, in each song building to a climax where the production makes the sound completely overpowering. Electric Wizard say that they spent a great deal of time on the production of “Black Masses”, which in my personal opinion is one of the greatest achievements on this LP, which can only be described as sleazy. It gives a very vivid feel to the LP, as it feels as though you are squinting at the band play through a haze of thick and white smoke, which is soaked into the ancient equipment creating a muddy texture to the standard tones to any Electric Wizard release. The guitars are as thick as ever, with the distortion and bass turned up to 11, and the sense of the band playing in a tiny room with the volumes of everything on full.
“Black Masses” is a very loud LP, one cannot get the full effect from it simply through headphones, and it demands much time in order to grow inside the head of the listener. As I said earlier, when I first heard ‘Venus in Furs’ I was reasonably disappointed with the lack of any breathtaking riffs, which is what Electric Wizard are capable of, but “Black Masses” is not about the riff, but the groove, and the vocals. The vocals are astonishing; a huge change from previous releases with Jus reaching remarkably high pitches, such as on ‘Venus In Furs’, and it works. On all of the tracks (except ‘Satyr IX’ and ‘Crypt of Drugula’) there are choruses, all of which are memorable in the same way that the vocals on Black Sabbaths “Master of Reality” are, which push forward the Electric Wizards sound.
There are moments on “Black Masses” where the riffs nearly live up to the likes of ‘Funeralopolis’ and ‘Vinum Sabbathi’, but they are more condensed and enhance the vocal lines, such as on ‘Turn of Your Mind’ and ‘Black Masses’, but in addition to this there are solos in nearly every song. The solos fit perfectly with the production on “Black Masses”, when you cannot exactly hear what is going on and the “wall of sound” (almost similar to Mogwai) parts of the LP make the songs more eerie and mysterious.
The two songs which standout from the crowd on “Black Masses” are ‘Satyr IX’ and the instrumental ‘Crypt of Drugula’, which are much more astral and slow, remind the listener of moments on “Come My Fanatics” especially ‘Crypt of Drugula’ which is very sinister and ambient with the sound of thunder in places, and this brings something different to “Black Masses”. Most of the LP is reasonably up-tempo compared to usual Electric Wizard albums, and although it is nowhere near as heavy as other LPs, it makes up for it in every other sense.
Overall “Black Masses” is an excellent LP, with incredible production and vocals, which replaced the gigantic riffs and made it into a new sounding Velvet Underground if they donned denim jackets, played metal and praised the occult.