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Upon the release of their 1994 self-titled debut album, the UK’s Electric Wizard was merely a nice, dark, heavy doom metal band. Nothing all that special, and certainly not all that distinct from the other doom/stoner bands already clogging up the Rise Above records roster. But in the years to come, something went horribly, irreversibly wrong. A truly palpable sense of evil worked it’s way into the band’s psyche, and their sound became accordingly darker, slower and ever more cynical.
The tones Jus Oborn became capable of summoning up on his Gibson SG were of another world altogether, and clearly not what the instrument was designed for. And the rhythm section became more a duo of staggering zombies in doleful search of brain matter rather than percussive timekeepers. They follow, no lumber, behind the sonic maps laid out by Oborn, vainly hoping his dirges will lead them to somewhere where light can penetrate this unholy barrier of music keeping Electric Wizard from contact with the living. It’s true that we’ll probably never know exactly what it was that turned Electric Wizard off the (at least somewhat) bright path of biker/stoner rock and into a smoke infested, lung choking, hope-exterminating beast of purest musical sloth. But then, I guess what happened isn’t nearly as important as the fact that it did, and that we have the musical evidence to support the existence of this…THING.
There is a sort of constant drone that envelops this entire album, a sort of middle C cosmic doom note that seems to quiver eternally in the background…sort of like the use of drone instruments in Indian music, which is appropriate. The slow-mo syrup of Electric Wizard sound is nothing if not trance-like, although not in a blissful sense. I don’t think the ugly cynicism of opener “Return Trip” could ever envelop one with bliss, or even hope. But all is not pure ugliness, as revealed by “Wizard In Black,” which manages a sort of catchiness, despite it clocking in a 8 minutes 14 seconds of running time. And for those of you who come (…My Fanatics…) to this doom/stoner genre with the haze of the acidic sixties still hanging in your transom, fear not, because that dreamy, trippy vibe is evident, not only in the loose sloppiness of the drums ‘n bass, but also in the general lack of carved in stone structure these songs maintain. Also Oborn is very apt to cloak his voice in phasing effects (see “Doom-Mantia”), which should please those of you who thought “Planet Caravan” was the best track on Black Sabbath’s Paranoid (yeah, all three of you out there).
Also present is the not altogether shocking “Ivixor B/Phase Inducer,” which matches wailing world music vocals with synthesizer warbles that would not be out of place on elder prog or krautrock recordings of the early seventies (Amon Duul II, Faust, Guru Guru and maybe even Hawkwind, now that I think of it…). If you’re here for the doom, don’t worry, because “Son Of Nothing” throws us right back into the sludge, and this time with an almost normal tempo, clearer vocals, an a fairly apparent Melvins vibe watching over the band nervously. The almost wordless “Solarian 13” brings proceedings to an end, and quite perfectly at that, moving through weighty riffage towards a slow and hypnotic ending, almost stagnant, though hardly peaceful.
Yeah this is serious shit, man. And I must say that you can read my writing about this band all you want (like I’m really gonna stop you) but until you hear the multi-layered, cavernous sound their recordings possess, you really can’t understand the density on hand here. Other bands may be heavy, may be slow and may be trippy, but nobody but Electric Wizard really, elementally, biologically understands these notions. Heavy isn’t in the minds of these players, it’s in their DNA.