Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard: This Dying World

Electric Wizard Wizard Bloody Wizard

And so the scumbag overlords return to once more claim their position at the top of the heap they’ve made. Electric Wizard are inarguably one of the most influential doom bands of their generation, with nearly 30 years of history going back to guitarist/vocalist Jus Oborn‘s founding of Lord of Putrefaction in 1988, which begat Thy Grief Eternal circa 1991 before taking shape as Electric Wizard ahead of the band’s 1995 self-titled debut. In the 22 years since that record hit, much has changed, of course, but with their ninth long-player, Wizard Bloody Wizard — licensed to Spinefarm Records through the band’s own Witchfinder Records imprint — the band reaffirms much of what has led to their longevity in terms of style and songwriting.

In some ways, the Dorset, UK-based outfit have existed in their own shadow since marking something of a comeback with 2007’s landmark Witchcult Today (discussed here), and subsequent LPs, Black Masses (review here) in 2010 and Time to Die (review here) in 2014, found the group working to develop ideas and themes largely along similar lines, and largely succeeding, but as Oborn, guitarist Liz Buckingham, bassist Clayton Burgess (also Satan’s Satyrs) and drummer Simon Poole step into the willfully-crafted muck of Wizard Bloody Wizard‘s six-track/42-minute span, they bring something of a pivot toward a rawer, less directly cultish sound. The change is due if not overdue and has been part of the discussion for as long as the band has been talking about the proverbial “next album,” but to have it manifest here in songs like “Necromania” and “Wicked Caresses” underscores the band’s tie between holding fast to the elements that have worked in their favor since classic outings like 1997’s Come My Fanatics… and 2000’s Dopethrone (discussed here) and attempting to move forward into a pivot in style if not an actual leap.

The trick to Electric Wizard is and has been for at least the last decade that they sound like the human embodiment of fuckall. One can put on an Electric Wizard track like the chugging, feedback-laden “See You in Hell,” hear Oborn‘s addled drawl, the rawness of tone and the lumbering progression, and hear a signature attitude on the part of the band that seems to advocate checking out of life by following its example at having already long since done so. This has made the band forerunners in witch doom, wizard doom, cult doom, garage doom — whatever you want to call it — but as a feat of craft it’s all the more impressive when one engages the details.

To wit, if they actually didn’t give a crap, Wizard Bloody Wizard wouldn’t be nearly as impeccably mixed as it is, promoting depth as well as a touch of atmosphere while still fostering barebones tonality and an overarching lack of flourish in all tracks save perhaps for the three-minute horror-themed drifter interlude “The Reaper.” Poole‘s drums wouldn’t come through as clearly and crisply as they do if they were actually lazily tracked, and frankly, songs like “Necromania,” “Hear the Sirens Scream” and “Wicked Caresses” wouldn’t be nearly as catchy as they are while also feeding into a larger, full-LP flow that presents “See You in Hell,” “Necromania” and “Hear the Sirens Scream” as a one-two-three salvo of hooks on side A while sleeking deeper into the VHS-grit mire on side B with “The Reaper” before returning to solid ground on “Wicked Caresses” before letting consciousness fade at last on 11-minute closer “Mourning of the Magicians.” None of this is haphazard, whatever superficial impressions the band might make — and want to make — to the contrary.

electric wizard

On their own level, Electric Wizard are absolute professionals — arguably all the more so here since they’re recording themselves and releasing in part through their own label — and the maturity of their approach comes through this material without sacrificing its dark vitality or the core attitude necessary to carry it. Oh yeah, a part sounds sloppy? It’s supposed to. That’s the idea. The filthier, the nastier Electric Wizard are able to come across, the more they’ve succeeded in realizing one of their most essential tenets. And among the generation of imitators they’ve spawned, almost no one has been able to do the same thing as well as they do it. Wizard Bloody Wizard, with its tossoff Sabbathian title, classless cover art, and seeming trashcan simplicity of presentation, reaffirms all of it. Electric Wizard have beat the system. Again.

Their themes as ever set in drugs, horror, murder, disaffection, and so on, one might accuse Oborn and company of playing to familiar elements in their work — still, in other words, existing in that shadow. As “Mourning of the Magicians” talks about the children of Saturn amid its intertwining layers of chug and wah-caked lead guitar, and “Necromania” seems to call back to “Venus in Furs” from Black Masses in its psychosexual vibe, that argument might prove valid, but there’s no question that in texture and overarching sound, Electric Wizard have indeed pulled off a turn in these tracks, away from the swirl and toward the churn, generally speaking. That’s not to say the organ-led “The Reaper” or the dirge-marching “Mourning of the Magicians” — in the chorus of which Oborn delivers the title-line to “See You in Hell,” tying the first and last songs together for yet another display of underlying cohesion — are lacking in ambience, just that they take a slightly different route to get there than they might have on the last couple records.

Whatever else they do sonically or in terms of songwriting, Electric Wizard brook no middle ground when it comes to opinion. “Yes!” or “Yuck!,” but almost never “meh,” in terms of audience responses, and whichever category a given listener might fall into, one doubts Wizard Bloody Wizard will do much to sway the opinions of those whose minds are already made up, but when engaged on its own level and taken in appreciation for the subtlety that exists beneath its purposefully harsh and at times gleefully wretched exterior, there’s little else one can call it but the band’s finest work in the decade since Witchcult Today. It may or may not be the beginning of a next stage of their already storied and massively successful career — and in a way that’s not something we can know until they follow it up — but by changing the balance of aspects already relevant to their style, Electric Wizard have managed to find new life in their craft while still cloaking themselves in the unmistakable stink of death. There’s a reason they are who they are.

Electric Wizard, “See You in Hell” official video

Electric Wizard webstore

Electric Wizard on Thee Facebooks

Spinefarm Records on Thee Facebooks

Spinefarm Records website

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5 Responses to “Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard: This Dying World”

  1. Gaia says:

    This is a fantastic review, well done JJ. Very rarely does an ephemeral quality of sensibility get defined in such a clear cut way. Thank you.

  2. Ricardo says:

    You know, it’s by the numbers, easy to put in place, yet still original and super heavy. Haven’t lost a step.

  3. Anders says:

    Great insightful review imo!

  4. Giannis says:

    Just a quick question. Where is my comment from yesterday?

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