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I must confess that I hadn't heard any actual Electric Wizard music before hearing this split they did with Reverend Bizarre in 2008, even though I'd known about this band from reading stuff in which they'd been referenced by other bands. This split at least is a good introduction for me, as I'm familiar with Reverend Bizarre from hearing some of their short releases. Electric Wizard's "The House on the Borderland" is a traditionally styled doom metal song of slow-n-steady bass-heavy pounding rhythm, shimmering church organ tones and smooth-toned lead guitar licks. The lead guitar soloing is nothing out of the ordinary when it happens: the slightly wobbly tone has a slight psychedelic feel which matches the rich organ sound and together these give the song a slightly deranged air. The singing is almost a sleepy half-chant. As the song progresses, the rhythm starts to speed up slightly and the guitar and organ commence battle to see which of the two is more demented than the other. About the halfway point, the music condenses to a pulsing bass rhythm with slight organ and lead guitar touches around the edge; the music starts to build up again around this rhythm. While lead guitar flits about in little flurries of melody in the background and the rhythm chugs along, a lone voice chants all the way to the end.
"The Gates of Nanna" is Reverend Bizarre's cover of the Beherit song and it's a better song than the Electric Wizard offering. The singing is much better if rather overly theatrical and the pace is almost of geological-time speed so the style verges on sludge doom. I can hear Beherit in the very brief instrumental passages where the drum and bass together go tap-tap-tap. As EW do in their track, RB bring their piece down to a point of singularity from which strange shurikens of effect whiz out over your head and alien froggy things grunt and croak beneath the spinning cymbals. A lone melody can just be heard emerging from under the flying sheets of metal and alien voices chant in a strange language. It all ends quite suddenly.
Neither song ends with a definite climax: each chugs along in a conventional song-like way to the halfway mark and then drops into something quite unexpected and low-key from which the song recovers gradually. Just when you think the build-up is about to explode into some glorious pyrotechnics display, the song stops. Many listeners familiar with these bands might not find these songs satisfactory for this reason but at least it's a refreshing change for RB anyway to tackle something quite experimental and way out of their usual Heldentenor doom metal routine.
Taken as a whole, the split release is competent but that's all that can be said about it. RB's experimental effort seems wasted here and EW's offering doesn't seem all that remarkable. You'd think two bands working on a split would try to offer the very best they can to complement each other.
Electric Wizard is one of my favourite bands. Their psychedelic mix of doom metal and stoner rock is simply excellent, as well as are their weed influenced lyrics about horror and Lovecraftian nightmares. I especially liked their first eponymous album, legendary "Dopethrone" (which many would call their best album) and my favourite from them, "We Live". Though their newest release "Witchcult Today" was not as good as their previous albums and had not same psychedelic stoner touch than past Wizard's albums, it was still quite an enjoyable hour of doom metal.
But then there is their 12" split single with Reverend Bizarre. Reverend Bizarre's Beherit cover on the B-side is not good, but Wizard's A-side is abysmal. As far as I know it's lyrics haven't been released so big part of atmosphere goes away that way: Oborn's vocals are too unclear to be understood without lyric sheet and so you are left without story. And in for me lyrics are very important, far more important than for most music fans. This is especially shame because Wizard have made many very atmospheric lyrics, like almost beautiful "Saturn's Children" on "We Live" and cosmic Lovecraftian horror tale "Weird Tales" from "Dopethrone". I have always liked Oborn's vocal style: distorted screams on "Dopethrone" or clean, haunting yelling on "Eko Eko Azarak" ("We Live") are vocally as great as the songs are musically, which is close to perfect... But on this track his singing is first boring and then annoying.
The song itself, "House on the Borderland", is also first boring, but after it has repeated it's boring riff long enough, it becomes really annoying. The riffs and melodies of the song lack the mysterious, weedy and 'occultist' feeling of Wizard's classics. Where are the creepy echoed solos from "I, the Witchfinder"? "House on the Borderland" also lacks the jam feeling, and is sounding some way unnatural for Wizard, which is a bad thing.
And then we come to the production. It's bad. "House on the Borderland" lacks ultra heaviness, muddy and acid atmosphere of old Wizard releases. This sounds just normal doom metal and there's nothing original. Something is wrong, if Electric Wizard doesn't make tables shake. Maybe 15 % is too low review for this, but for an Electric Wizard fan this is huge disappointment. Best thing on this album is it's cool covers...