Oct 25, 2010

Electric Wizard - Black Masses

Electric Wizard are back! Their seventh full-length album for Rise Above Records and this doesn't disappoint at all. It is no surprise that Electric Wizard are legends within the Doom Metal scene as their albums are among the heaviest ever recorded, some say the HEAVIEST. Whenever you get a band like this, recording some of the most classic Doom Metal albums ever, most notably "Come My Fanatics" and "Dopethrone" there is always going to be pressure placed on them to match those recordings. This can be very unfair of course but Electric Wizard have always done a damn good job over the years at remaining consistent. The last full length, "Witchcult Today" released in late 2007 show the band still had what it takes and despite some reviewers claiming it was a patchy effort it still climbed to the top record list of many people in 2007 and its pretty obvious this album will do the same.

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.

15 comments :

  1. Great review Ed and yes it was uploaded onto a German forum and I snagged it from there but I went back the next day to read some more comments and the link was gone again. Great album but I am still not sure how much I like it, its not as heavy as the early albums and not as immediate as Witchcult so there you go.

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  2. Thanks Paul you are right but I think while it may not be as easy to get into at first than say Witchcult but after a few spins you discover all this depth in the songwriting. And by the way just to show you how popular they are, since this review was posted this site has got over 1,300 views in just 6 hours.

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  3. This is the first full review of the album I have read yet and I have to say, I am more excited now than I was before, if that is even possible. I am infinitely jealous that you’ve had a chance to hear the album. It’s leaked?? I look everyday to no avail.

    Now on to the US release. It will be an epic fail for Rise above and Metal Blade if this thing isn’t available in the States in the first week of November. This will be a classic case of the industry just not getting it and a slap to the face of the band. I don’t want to hear about lead times and all that crap (from the Rise Above Facebook page). I work in manufacturing and if they want to get it done they can. It is as simple as that. If they don’t, it shows a general indifference to the band on Metal Blade’s (who is responsible for the US release) part. It can be done without adding cost too. You have to be flexible. This release should be made a priority. The lack of advance advertising is a bit of a mystery as well. This release could be HUGE (in relative terms) in the number of sales, but from what I’ve seen so far, it is clearly not being given the effort it deserves. Once lossless rips hit the web it’s over. Kudos to Rise Above to squashing leaks so far, but in a week, they just won’t be able to control it any longer. It is too bad too. The band’s potential success could bring them to the US for a tour…but it just isn’t going to happen. The time is right for EW to be huge everyone involved is coming off like a dope-smokin’ slacker…

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  4. There is actually about 7 reviews for the album published on the net, nearly of all them from German or Russian websites. As far as I know Russia is where the leaked version happened and its the promo version so its most likely a reviewer that did the leaking but I haven't seen the download either. My version is a burned copy of one of these leaked promos so I hope the version is correct or I will have to review it all over again.

    I too have been amazed how little advertising has gone into this, sites have pre-orders up for grabs but no one is promoting it too much. I have heard, just last night the vinyl will be delayed but the CD is being released on schedule. Personally I don't think Metal Blade is the right label for Electric Wizard to be working with, they have shown in the past they don't really care about this kind of metal. Rise Above is a different story again, I haven't never liked the label from a media point of view because they never bother to answer my and others emails. I am happy that this is not being leaked everywhere like Witchcult was. That album was on the net nearly 2 months before it was released so someone is keeping this one under-wraps. You can read the comment above from Paul who said he found it leaked one day and it was gone the next.

    I have ordered the 2LP for my purchase, I just hope they don't screwed up the pressing like they did with a couple of other EW albums.

    Thanks for the comment.

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  5. Release date has been moved back to November 15th according to one blog I just read.

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  6. Would anyone mind sending me the album if anyone even has it? I kinda want to have the album for Halloween.
    my email is bladesman582@hotmail.com, in case someone has it. Thanks in advance!

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  7. could someone do the same for me as well please? having it for halloween would be fucking awesome chainsmoker05@yahoo.com

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  8. The CD is in stock now at Rise Above so prepare for mass uploading in the next few days.

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  9. I might regret this but send me a email and I will send you a download link, one week only and then the I will be deleting the file.

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  10. Maybe it is just me but I think this album is really weak and uninspired. On top of that I just hate the production.

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  11. Well Alex as you might have guessed I don't agree with you but I know you are not alone in your thoughts for the album. I have a good friend, huge Electric Wizard fan who is deeply disappointed in the album and I am sure many others are the same.

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  12. We're sharing the same thougts Alex...
    Bad Wizard, very bad Wizard...

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  13. I was happy to read this review. while a long time fan, each album has to be taken on its own merits. strangely, the New York Times actually reviewed this album the day it was released. The reviewer called it derivative and droning, nothing new. But after repeated listens, Black Masses is deep. More of the same, in a good way. Which begs the question, how many times do reviewers actually listen to an album, on average?

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  14. Well John, I know one well known reviewer who just scans albums and then reviews them and he told me this is pretty common. No wonder doom bands get bad reviews. For the record, I never review anything till I have heard the album in full at least 5 times. That is why some albums take a few weeks to get reviewed, it takes a awful lot of time to truly get to know a album.

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  15. Funny I just read this review and I am surprised I rated it so highly. Time can change your perception of an album and that is certainly the case here. I think the album is great still but really, I gave this a 9.7....hmmm might be time for a edit.

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