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There’ve been many rather unusual spurts of evolutionary chaos in the history of doom metal, from its seemingly spontaneous invention in the early days of Black Sabbath to the present day. The trend that paved the way for what is seen in the blustering explosion of hemp and swamp gas that is Electric Wizard can be partially credited to the noise driven, low end tone set by St. Vitus about 10 years prior, though equal credence should be given to the band’s own death/doom roots, back when they were under a different name (Lord Of Putrefaction). It’s a sound that is underscored by a unique brand of nastiness that has clear grounding in 70s Sabbath tradition, yet sounds all but a world away from such early examples as “Sweet Leaf” and “Snowblind”.
“Dopethrone” is generally regarded as this band’s breakout record, to the point of several well known metal media outlets hailing it as either the album of the decade or a close contender to said honor. This sentiment isn’t without a very clear rationale, as this collection of songs provides an archetypical model upon which the style can be judged. The punishingly low tempos, minimalist to the point of droning guitar lines, hypnotic and semi-psychedelic underpinnings in the atmosphere and narrated samples, all buried under a mountain of muddy heaviness is packaged in such a way as to be easily consumed, provided that one has a taste for said ingredients. It’s basically a purist example of how a modern outfit reinterprets the past with an eye for simplicity and aggression.
The contingency of this album’s digestibility is utterly blatant, hence while achieving an amount of visible recognition, this is more of a cult album that commands love and devotion from true believers and will often put off outsiders to this style. The mood of the entire listen is a very forward sense of realistic fatalism, seeing society through the lens of pure dissent, and bringing dope into the equation as an element to heighten the rebellion, rather than as a form of escapism. The somewhat traditionally Sabbath oriented intro to “Funerapolis” gives a subtle nod to the orthodox stoner, but makes a sudden morph into a bleak, post-60s world where drugs are no longer about peace and flowers, but instead a means of ending a miserable existence in an even more miserable world.
While much of the album tends towards a super-pessimistic outlook on mankind that borders on extreme misanthropy, there is some room made for worlds apart from this one, but not for purposes of escape, but instead for an alternate reality just as dark and uninviting. The band’s death/doom era fascination with horror and the occult makes a few appearances on here, particularly in the manifestations of “Weird Tales” and “I, The Witchfinder”, both seeing a longwinded reinterpretation into the same drug steeped sound as the rest of the album, the former going through 3 different segments of varying feel, while the latter just plods in the most merciless of ways in a manner befitting an ambient album. All the while is the morose voice of Jus Oborn, carrying a tune yet haggard and gravely sounding, like a twisted soul shouting at random manifestations while on a bad LSD trip.
The Electric Wizard institution is generally a consistent one, so it’s safe that anyone who has heard and liked one of their albums will like most of them, particularly the pre-2003 material. “Dopethrone” is perhaps the most known of their albums, but apart from the slightly more modern character, there isn’t really anything that makes it more entertaining or of a higher quality than the previous 2 albums. It’s an essential pickup for any doom/stoner fan who wants just one more excuse to hate the establishment, but my preference is for “Come My Fanatics”, perhaps because it’s a bit closer to the traditional Sabbath mentality that St. Vitus masterfully revived in the 80s. But this does deserve the hype it tends to get, if for no other reason than that it may rope in some new adherents to the great wizard.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on July 27, 2011.