Review Summary: On the comedown.
Those that have experienced “Dopethrone”
remember the first time they heard it. For some, that would involve lying on the floor staring through the ceiling above in a state of heightened sensitivity, transcending space and time and becoming One with the riff. Even those that were sound of mind would cough, splutter and howl alongside Jus Oborn about sex, violence, the impending apocalypse and, of course, drugs. Though for the unaffiliated and then-untainted, there was simply nothing heavier than Electric Wizard. Their feedback and distortion mangled their audience’s brains while the lumbering riffs would restructure it to act as slowly and hazily as possible. You became hooked on their music. You introduced me to my mind.
Beginning a review by praising the best of its predecessors seems derogatory, however, the meteoric impact that “Dopethrone”
left upon the doom scene and everyone who approached too closely was so huge that it thus became the level of expectation from Electric Wizard ever since it was released inside the first year of the new millennia. 2014’s “Time to Die”
was an admirable effort to reciprocate the weighty, spaced-out spell that Electric Wizard so infamously casts, unfortunately, its successor, “Wizard Bloody Wizard”
, is possibly the biggest regression these mages have ever made.
Announced by the plodding riff in the first few seconds of “See You in Hell”-which continues to stammer along through that overly familiar riff for the majority of the song- emerges a different kind of ‘Wizard. Their slumberous riffs are still there but gone are the drowning-in-smoke and clawing-through-mud atmospheres that once surrounded their music. Save for the screeching guitar solo, there’s also little progression in tracks such as “Necromania”. Instead of travelling through the tunnel of psychedelia and bringing the oozing bass into the light, the band seems to be paralysed to the same spot throughout the track, observing what’s going on around them but never moving towards it.
Nevertheless, as monotonous and one-dimensional as the songs on this album sound, it is the first time Electric Wizard has attempted to break the mould in a long time. Stating a desire to create a record that harkens back to the stripped-down heavy blues from Led Zeppelin and Blue Cheer, the latest bastardisation of Electric Wizard has still managed to navigate their way out of the confines of the band’s brain while upholding their typical mysterious and heavy soundscapes, albeit far more cleanly. Simplicity is the key here and through that simplicity, the songs wedge themselves into your memory. Still expressing no faith for all humanity, Jus Oborn moves on to express little passion in his prominently clean sneers about virgin sacrifices, death stalking everyone and compares just about everything he can think of to drug use during “Wicked Caresses”. Furthermore, with unimaginative lyrics like ‘hunters now become the hunted/here’s the darkness you always wanted’ (“Mourning of the Magicians”), it feels like he’s performing just what the cue card says throughout the album.
Electric Wizard’s music has always been the soundtrack to a fever dream where everything appears sick, soiled and clouded. Shimmering guitars and synthesiser flying all over the place creates just enough of an atmosphere to pass as a psychedelic trip during “Mourning of the Magicians”, the closest attempt to an album highlight. However, instead of feeling trapped in the claustrophobic feedback of a nightmare, “Wizard Bloody Wizard”
is like being in a lucid dream, where you have a sense of control and everything appears in perfect clarity. Overall, Electric Wizard’s ninth album’s greatest asset is its familiarity; the strained and self-inflicted manipulation of their trademark sound is its greatest shortcoming.