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Electric Wizard find their calling on this album - 85%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, December 28th, 2012

What a difference two years can make ... Between their self-titled debut and this follow-up, Electric Wizard beefed up and distorted their sound and polished their song-writing and the result has taken them light years beyond what the first album achieved. For this reason alone, anyone interested in the band's history and how a young group can progress in leaps and bounds, these two albums are worth seeking out and hearing. The most obvious improvement in the band's style is the overall sound: thick and grimy textures in slower-than-slow guitar chords and riffs, accompanied by basic drum rhythms and a washed-out wailing vocal singing lyrics of despair at the present world and conjuring avenues of escape from the social and political oppression in our society.

We dive straight into the deep end with "Return Trip", a crusty doom sludge song if ever there was one, with black grime peeling off riffs to expose a raw layer that quickly changes to hard and dark and bleeds off in turn. The song sticks to the straight and narrow: even an extended instrumental passage doesn't attract a wiggly guitar solo, and it's only towards the end the song acquires layers of melody and riffing to suggest the vocalist's increasing mental derangement. Jus Oborn's singing isn't great - it's more like chanting or shouting sometimes - but his voice has a rough, anguished edge suited to the lyrical content. Real life is cold, hard, tyrannical, unjust and abusive and for many people the only way to stay sane is to escape into one's own world through the portal of hallucinogenic drugs. "Wizard in Black" and "Doom-Mantia" take up where "Return Trip" leaves off: these are epic tracks that extend the sludge / stoner doom trip out further into the realms of psychedelia, the latter track featuring treated vocals and multi-tracked voices (or so they sound).

"Ivixor B / Phase Inducer" is a wonderfully trippy mindfuck of a piece featuring a seemingly endless loop of female chanting with bubbly guitar effects and lazy bass rhythm followed by an abstract spacey tone piece that probably fell from an old pre-Autobahn Kraftwerk album and needed a home, so why not here. The atmosphere is spooky without appearing sinister. The two separate passages of the track are combined in a way that suggests a breakdown in a spaceship's communications with Earth while the astronauts are overcome by strange cosmic forces that can't be understood by rational people. Very original and quite ingenious!

The remaining tracks on the album suffer for being footnotes to the instrumental track and the strong first half of the album. "Son of Nothing" is hardcore melodic rock with metal trimmings in style and its post-apocalyptic / sci-fi lyrics embody both hope and fear as the remnants of humanity flee a scorched Earth to find a new home. "Solarian 13" brings up the rear with a mix of gently buoyant and seesawing grime-thickened guitar rhythms around which trippy ambient effects swirl and tease.

The album draws its strength from a more streamlined musical approach in which music serves to enhance each song and its subject rather than fill out empty spaces with frills or show off individual musicians' dexterity and master of their instruments; and also from powerful lyrical themes of alienation, global destruction and flight to new worlds whether internally in one's head as a form of escape or externally for survival. Fantasy, the apocalypse and its aftermath, and science fiction elements of space travel through drugs and spaceships, and human migration to new worlds combine with doom, stoner and sludge metal to generate an original piece of work in "Come My Fanatics ...". It's on this album that EW find their calling.