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The first thing that stands out when approaching the new Electric Wizard content is the album art. Anyone who is keen on doom music will know where that wavy text and eerie purple comes from; for those that don't it comes from the album "Masters of Reality" by doom gods Black Sabbath. This isn't really anything unique, there have been a lot of album art homages done for Black Sabbath and one that comes to mind quickly is the cover of "Vol. 1" by Church of Misery, who are another stoner metal group from Japan. Another thing that stands out is that "legalise" is misspelled, and it is uncertain if this was done on purpose or if it was a mistake.
Diving headlong into the material, the title track opens with a distortedly fat bong rip and guitar feedback. The first thing that is noticed is that the vocals have an immense amount of reverb which causes the track to echo, and this gives a great effect that causes the vocals to feel surrounded by their own clean atmosphere apart from the grungy instruments. The reverb effect, so often lost in metal these days, is the ultimate reminder of classic doom tendencies and sets the overtone for the track.
Dirty, fuzzy guitar riffs and bass lines are what one expects while listening to Electric Wizard, and they haven't failed to deliver their trademark sound better than ever. In another move to capture the authentic 1970's stoner/doom style, the bass takes on a heavy and wooden tone, occasionally rising above the other instruments and vocals. There are quite a few "easter eggs" (for those not familiar, the term "easter egg" means a hidden surprise in a game, movie, or even music) scattered throughout the material, such as a repeating line found in "Legalise Drugs & Murder".
"Children of the grave!"
Having referenced to Black Sabbath's "Masters of Reality" with the album art, this lyric is a reference to a track off of that very album, the track being titled "Children of the Grave". The lyrics are incredibly repetitive, the aforementioned line repeats, as does a haunting chant of the title tracks name, but there is so much going on in the background that it is good to have at least one constant. The first track fades out nicely and leaves the bass guitar in front, along with the vocals and organ synthesizers, to ring out.
The second track, "Murder & Madness", opens with a slow and haunting lead guitar intro where the drums casually fade in. The vocals are an unrecognizable mesh of whispers which will leave the listener confused at first, until the realization sets in that the vocal track is reversed. Given the old-school traits that are already present, and that this content was only released on vinyl, there is a high degree of probability that there is a hidden message lingering here somewhere if you spin it backwards. There are even some indications that the whole song may have been recorded backwards, from the way that the drums fade in and that sometimes the guitars ring in, instead of out.
Either way, a hell fury of chaos begins to unleash midway through the song, making this track gradually descend into the depths of insanity over time. The lead guitar holds the same riff for the entire track, and the drums stay on the same pattern except for a few variances here and there. This composure works, seeing as all of the other instruments (bass, synths, secondary guitar) work up into a frenzy that will leave the listener saying "Holy fuck!" once the head trip finally comes to an end as the song fades from the left speaker to the right.
Electric Wizard have succeeded, thus far, in recreating the long lost stoner/doom atmosphere of old. The sound quality is purposely distorted, and distorted with control so that it sounds authentic but fresh. Look for their new album this fall from Rise Above Records.
- Villi Thorne
Here is Electric Wizard, the best band in the extreme scene for the last decade or for an even longer period of time, at least for me. However, it doesn't really matter whether you agree or disagree with me, because "Legalise Drugs and Murder" doesn't possess that psycho doom/sludge heaviness like some of its forefathers. The new ep is pretty much "a song from Witchcult today" on side A and "a song from Let Us Prey" on side B.
To make it clear from the very beginning, I think that the ep is good. It is not great, but it's okay. I'm huge on the previous records of the band and it is normal that I counted down to the days when I'd hear the new ep and maybe if it was the 7" of a random doom band I'd say that it is really amazing, but since it is the Wizard I just expected a bit more. This ep presents Justin repeating his old ideas in a not-very-original way. If you're not acquainted with the music of the band, but like occult rock, I'll bet you'd find this ep very cool and original.
So now to the songs. On side A we have "Legalise Drugs and Murder", which starts EXACTLY with the same riff as "The Chosen few" from the 2007 record. Surely it is a great riff and makes up one of the greatest songs of the band, but 'hey, we've heard that already'. The riff goes on for some time, then changes a bit and goes on pretty much the same throughout the song following the lyrics that beg for legalisation of drugs and murder for most of the time. The best part of the song is when the solo breaks off around 03:30 and after. The solo is the kind of 'I'll take you higher', really good kind of one, a type of distorted, magical, and enchanting one. The only problem is it really resembles other previous solos. The vocals are in the vein of "Black Masses", the clear, tortured type. Justin sounds as if you're listening to him from somewhere far away buried in a purple, smoke-filled land, which I guess is quite cool. Oh, since I said purple it reminded me, the artwork is not the only bow to Sabbath. Justin repeats pretty much all the time after the solo "Children of the Grave", which is as we all know a very well-known song by another band.
On side B is "Murder and Madness", an instrumental one that's not very much in the vein of the first song. Totally creepy as a dark journey. If the purpose of it was to transport you to a cold dungeon, it does it. The little problem is that it goes on pretty much the same all the time. My favourite part are the chants at the end. They're like a cool, well-hidden secret, only the ones that will play it to the end will hear them.
I recommend that you hear this if you're fan of the latest Electric wizard records, if you're into hallucinogenic occult rock, or if you like mindfucks. In the good way, of course.
Black Masses was largely a let down for me. The bookend tracks were interesting, with the memorable chorus of "Black Mass" and the experimentation and atmosphere of "Crypt of Drugula." But on the whole, the album was rather uninteresting and certainly nothing new. It felt watered down and uninspired. After the release of Black Masses I became worried about the future of Electric Wizard.
Fortunately it looks like Black Masses may have been a hiccup rather than the beginning of the end. Electric Wizard has made their return with a new 7" vinyl release called Legalize Drugs and Murder. At first I was skeptical and reluctant to give it a try. I heard people talking about how it was even worse than Black Masses. Luckily, I did come around to giving it a listen.
The 7" starts out with a song bearing the same name as the release. "Legalize Drugs and Murder" is classic Electric Wizard. On Black Masses Jus Oborn's vocals sounded uncharacteristically weak and at times almost bordering on nasally. On "Legalize Drugs and Murder", Jus is back and sounding stronger than ever. His clean vocals are deep and full, complementing the songs dark drugged-out feel. The chorus is one of Electric Wizard's catchiest and the repeating chants of "Children of the Grave" at the end of the song works nicely as an homage to Black Sabbath. These words also seem to represent Electric Wizard's image. The guitar in this song features sludgy doom riffs. Nothing Electric Wizard hasn't done before, but they do a damn good job. Another thing that bothered me about Black Masses where the annoying little guitar solos that seemed to sprout up everywhere, but ended up going nowhere. There is melodic lead guitar in this song, but it takes nothing away and adds to the atmosphere. The guitar solo is well placed and suits the song. All in all, this is a great doom metal song.
The title track is followed up by "Murder and Madness", an instrumental song. From "Mountains of Mars" to "The Hills Have Eyes", I've always felt that Electric Wizard have been able to pull off very interesting instrumentals. "Murder and Madness" proves to be no exception. This track may remind some listeners of equally creepy instrumental "Night of the Shape." This song would be perfect for a low budget horror film. This track is a perfect example of an effective way of drawing people into the atmosphere of a non-ambient instrumental: set up a main theme that repeats throughout the songs and add subtle variations around it.
With "Legalize Drugs and Murder", Electric Wizard ignites new hope for the future of the group. If this is any inclination of how the next album will sound, it should prove to be a classic in their discography. Although casual fans are likely to skip over small releases such as 7''s, I strongly advise against brushing off this one. While they don't do anything they haven't done before, these songs are great. Sometimes you don't need to reinvent your sound as long as you can pull off quality songwriting.