Oct 25, 2010
Electric Wizard - Black Masses
A couple of elements on this album stand out, one is the progression in the songwriting that EW display on "Black Masses", while they are still as heavy as ever, Jus Oborn and his cult show they have refined their style somewhat as the songs flow better than ever before. The other outstanding feature is the musicianship, Electric Wizard have never been the most technical band on the planet and they still are far from it but the skill level has increased dramatically on this album. Riffs seems more precise and focused and the band as a whole seem to be locked into a tighter groove than ever before. The last element worth mentioning is the production, they still have that total analog, vintage sound but this time around, the production can only be described as "sleazy". If it is possible to make a sound that is like a smoke-filled room, they have done it with "Black Masses", the songs have a hazy, smokey atmosphere and the production seems to push bong-smoke out of the speakers and thus making "Black Masses" their most atmospheric recording ever.
Black Masses starts with the title track which is like an awakening of a beast, it slowly comes to life before unleashing one of those riffs that only Jus Oborn can produce. There is a real intense tension connected with this track, a nervous, drug induced kind of panic attack made into a song. With this song and the album really, they seem to blending the history of heavy music into something pure Electric Wizard. This title track is powerfully hypnotic, a style that they have perfected over the years but I don't think they have been as right on the nuggets like they are here. Lyrically they still have that occult, psychedelic vibe about them and Oborn's voice still has that distinctive, echoing vocal that seems to be coming up from underneath the music and not over the top of it. A killer opening track that is one of Electric Wizard's best ever tunes.
The already leaked "Venus In Furs" is another highlight that sounds better here than on the previously leaked version, the hallucinatory guitar work along with Tas and Rutter's locked in rhythm section is a pleasure to listen to, Electric Wizard have never sounded so tight. They still have that big fat sound they are famous for but in this song it's particularly heavy as they have changed the muddy bass of the past and replaced it with a thicker, more direct warm sound. Rutter's drums are still have a basic, repetitive feel but they sound bigger and more vibrant than they ever did on the past EW recordings. Keeping things moving nicely, "Night Child" follows sounding very sinister and haunting, the general vibe here is like being followed late at night by a Jack The Ripper kind of character so the atmosphere is one of pure fear and paranoia. This leads into the evil psychedelia of "Patterns of Evil" which has a more N.W.O.B.H.M vibe about it which melts into a 10 minute crawling sludge-fest titled "Satyr IX". This is a major highlight as riffs dissolve into one another and the piece burns with an ugly kind of slow groove.
The N.W.O.B.H.M and Sabbathian influences return again for "Turn Off Your Mind" and the sound is surprisingly clean and crisp for an Electric Wizard song. "Scorpio Curse" is however a total brain-destroying psychedelic doom feast for the ears and is the ideal opening song for any live Electric Wizard show as it has an anthemic quality to it. If there is a weak point to "Black Masses", it doesn't occur to the last track "Crypt Of Drugula". This sparse 8 minute instrumental is centered around noise and more fuzzy sonic riffs but really doesn't go anywhere but if the track is supposed to be like coming down after a heavy acid trip, it still works. It still doesn't affect the overall rating I will give this album though as the rest of it is so good, who in the hell could care about one little mis-step. When it all comes to a close, you are left feeling drained by this nightmarish example of how to make atmospheric Doom Metal into something truly distinctive. While there is many bands that copy the EW style and sound, very few if any can match the chemistry that Jus Oborn, Tas, Shaun Rutter and (the still incredibly stunning) Liz Buckingham has managed to achieved over the years. They are really perfection personified and "Black Masses" is their most ambitious album to date in many ways. They have progressed in ways that will please 90% of their fans and if you are in that 10% that still thinks they will never match the likes of "Dopethrone", you need to put down the bong and think again.
THE CONCLUSION: If you thought "Witchcult Today" was too polished, then you will love "Black Masses". It's an more ugly, sleazy and dirty album than "Witchcult Today" but it hasn't got the sickness that gets spewed at you during "Dopethrone". In a way it takes all the elements from all their albums, melts them down and turns them into something different again. It's a nasty, angry beast of a recording that oozes sleaze and reeks of satanic nightmares and drug induced apocalyptic visions. I am very excited to say that Electric Wizard are still leaders in their field of Stoner, Psychedelic Doom and mark my words this will be THE album of 2010 for a lot of fans and critics alike. Personally I put it just behind "Dopethrone," the debut and "Come My Fanatics" and above all their other releases, this is way beyond my expectations because I honestly thought their best years were now behind them, guess I was wrong. Electric Wizard are back and as crushing as ever (but in a different way now), this was due for a North American release on November the first but rumors say it could be delayed or least the 2LP vinyl version will be and that will be the version I will be grabbing when it's released. Also it's already leaked a couple of times but Rise Above Records or someone is keeping tabs on that as the downloads disappear as quickly as they arrive. Rise Above has no need to worry though, this will sell in huge numbers and I predict it will be their most successful album ever......8.5/10
Electric Wizard @ myspace.com
Rise Above Records Electric Wizard Page
NOTE: I am noticing more and more now that this album does have some production flaws if played loud through a big, powerful system. It seems the louder, you push it, the more muddy the sound becomes. I recommend listening to this with a good set of headphones.
Tags: Electric Wizard