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Fusion doom metal / retro-psych not that great - 60%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, October 10th, 2012

I'd heard of Electric Wizard before but until recently hadn't thought to hear any of their work. "Let Us Prey" seems quite an interesting album for me to start with as compared with their other full-lengths it's the shortest and most opinions and reviews about it are very mixed. My first impression on hearing it was that it's an average doom metal / stoner / retro-psychedelic album with a bit of improvisation and some free-noise influences here and there.

It rises slowly and eases into action with "... A Chosen Few" which features a laid-back yet ominous and stern guitar riff loop, relaxed drumming and reverbed singing. A change in key about halfway through brings in a trance-like element and echoing vocals give the song a spaced-out feel. The coda hints at the experimental angle that appears on and off through the album. Follow-up "We, the Dead" is unexpected garage punk with some circular whirling guitar riffs that remind me a little of old Joy Division in the sound. The song is repetitive and never quite seems to leave the starting-gates even though there is plenty of lead guitar soloing and some great whirling-dervish riff loops. "Master of Alchemy" begins a bit noisily and lackadaisically before sprucing up into a proper doom metal piece with repeating guitar riff loops and steady drumming. The track's structure relies on repetition of riffs that change during the course of this long piece (about nine minutes) and it has a distinctive dark-magic mood with distant phantom voices that emerge from and withdraw back into atmospheric effects.

"The Outsider" is intended as a trance-inducing retro-psychedelic stompathon but it's rather too sedate and the sound is too faithfully retro-pure to its inspirations and not doom metal enough. Guitars need a rougher texture, the pace could have varied more and the atmosphere of the song needs to be more day-glo bleached-out. The band has a stab at a piano-dominated instrumental before swinging into "Priestess of Mars", a fusion of juggernaut sludgey doom metal and retro-psychedelic rock. Erm, the retro influences seem to dominate the doom metal aspects rather too much for my liking and as on "The Outsider" are restricted to sparkly guitar, quavering vocals, space-ambient effects and a dark atmosphere.

Not bad but not all that remarkable is my verdict of the album. It's a pity EW sticks to the straight and narrow path in combining doom metal and retro-psychedelic rock as each style has enough depth and history to lend each other sounds and melodies that not only highlight the other genre's characteristics but also reflect on its own legacy. The slow doom metal with its repetitive riff loops could have highlighted psych-rock's tendency to soar high into the heavens with free-form instrumental music and the psych-rock could have relied on steady doom metal as its foundation for flights of fancy. Neither style of music is stretched to its utmost in sound and melody and the fusion doesn't strive hard for transcendence or a mind-blowing pyrotechnic climax - instead the music is just very circular. Later tracks have the feel of treading water and lack spark and energy.

The Black Drug Fizzles a Bit Between Trips - 84%

The_Evil_Hat, August 10th, 2009

I’ve been a fan of Electric Wizard for quite a while. The only problem was that my worship was dedicated to a bare sliver of their discography. I regularly listened to Dopethrone, Come My Fanatics… and occasionally Witchcult Today. And nothing else. As pathetic as it is, I mentally had this album and its follower combined into one and thrown in before Dopethrone. Now that I’ve actually listened to their entire body of work a few times, I’m still going to say that Dopethrone is the best. But that’s not a bad thing. The band wasn’t trying to remake Dopethrone on every album. Sure, the core of the style stayed the same, but it’s what changed that matters and every album brought new factors into the equation. Let us Prey is perhaps the most experimental of them all, and, in some ways, the darkest.

The guitars are massive, monolithic, gargantuan. They are a rolling, seething mass of low ends and distortion. The tone is slightly cleaner than on Dopethrone, as is the sound overall, but it’s more of a tradeoff than a reduction, as now some of the riffs come through far cleaner at the expense of some of the atmosphere. On the whole I don’t prefer the alterations, but it’s more of a taste thing than a standard and I could easily see others falling the other way. The other main guitar related difference from Dopethrone is the greater presence of psychedelic bits, probably the greatest on any Wizard album. In line with that, the solos are nothing short of excellent.

The bass is one of the few things that I feel is clearly superior here. The bass leads are more prominent and are seemingly more frequent, although I’m not altogether sure if the last isn’t a trick of the aforementioned production. The drumming is roughly the same as on Dopethrone: simple beats with an excess of cymbals that, due to the overbearing nature of the guitars, don’t do much more than lay down a highly solid groove for most of the time.

The vocals are the worst flaw of the album. I’m a huge fan of Oborn’s vocals on every other Electric Wizard release, and that’s why it’s a shame that they’re so different on this one. They’re often harsher and more aggressive, but that’s not what kills them. Before they came from the center of the wave of guitars. Now they come from below it and only pop up occasionally to gasp for air. Compounding the problem, there’re no provided lyrics this time around. The previous albums’ were excellent in this department, so the loss is saddening and only made more so by the fact that the harsher vocals and lower mixing makes it all but impossible to make most of the words out.

The songs on Let us Prey can be roughly divided into two camps: the more traditional songs and those that play around with the band’s sound a bit more. The first category consists of A Chosen Few, Master of Alchemy, The Outsider and Priestess of Mars. Perhaps due to the slightly smaller guitar tone, the album doesn’t flow as Dopethrone did and it becomes more about the riffs and individual songs than the whole. In that vein, A Chosen Few opens with squealing feedback and talking and ends with the song literally falling apart into more feedback. It’s a technique that I’ve actually praised others for, but I feel that it doesn’t work here. In a way I think I’m looking for something that the band members aren’t: namely a cohesive atmosphere over any single piece. Whether that’s true or not, this song damages that feeling without a doubt. On the upside, the main body of the song is almost able to excuse this, consisting of one of the best riffs on the album. The true standout here is Master of Alchemy, though. It’s a two part instrumental, consisting of Whipcord and The Black Drug. The first part is punishingly heavy, but the second’s were the song truly shines. The Black Drug consists of a more ambient riff, but still maintains its heaviness, forming one of Electric Wizard’s best moments. Outsider and Priestess of Mars both have competent riff work, but are more interesting for the highly psychedelic moments that occur in each of those, creating a very interesting vibe when done at the same time as the driving bass and drums.

The two tracks that break the mold a bit are We, the Undead and Night of the Shape. The first is a much faster, punkish song that breaks up the flow of the album horribly. The riffs are simple, and, due to their faster nature, their repetitiveness becomes obnoxious rather than endearing. The vocals are the main problem, though. They’re extremely harsh and aggressive, and while the song is faster, it’s probably one of the Wizard’s happier tunes, making the vocals feel horribly out of place. The whole thing is probably the weakest track that the band’s ever done, and I hope the experiment won’t be repeated, or, at the least, will be significantly changed when it is. Night of the Shape, on the other hand, is a very positive experiment. Coming in between ten minute behemoths, it’s a four minute interlude that positively bleeds atmosphere. Piano and violin dominate the track, while a stunningly poppy drum beat provides contrast and focus. It’s not something that I believe can be successfully repeated, and I highly doubt it’d sound like much of anything outside of its context, but within the album it’s a very satisfactory way to break up some of the longer tracks and try something new.

Let us Prey is undoubtedly weaker than Dopethrone and should probably be acquired fairly late in your Electric Wizard career. That being said, to pass over it for its faults would be a dire mistake and would involve not only missing out on some of the band’s best work, but also on some of their more interesting experiments.

The Outsider. - 65%

Perplexed_Sjel, July 15th, 2008

It would seem I missed ‘Let Us Prey’ in my bid to review all the Electric Wizard records. I’m not sure how I managed to completely neglect it’s existence, but nevertheless, here I am. ‘Let Us Prey’ is in fact the fourth full-length from the legendary British band Electric Wizard. After ‘Dopethrone’, which is considered the ultimate best from this act, Electric Wizard had much to live up to. In terms of public opinion, ‘Let Us Prey’ did the band no harm, but it didn’t match the greatness that ‘Dopethrone’ achieved. To many, Electric Wizard will never reach the unprecedented heights that the aforementioned record reached. It was the highlight in a career that doesn’t seem to have many negatives to pin on it, in the eyes of the public. To me, ‘Let Us Prey’ is the oddest Electric Wizard record. In some ways it’s a disappointment and in others, it’s not.

So, are there any differences from the previous outing? The answer is a simple yes. To me, the most overwhelming difference between this effort and the last is on vocals. Jus Osborn takes control, as always, of Electric Wizard but this time, he’s a changed man. Perhaps the experimental tendencies that really began to shine through on ‘Dopethrone’ are truly beginning to take shape on this effort, as opposed to the next. The line-up for this is the same as it previously was. Jus Osborn continues to take lead. Not only does he stand at the front of the band as the vocalist, but he also has creative control over the guitars, the second most important element of Electric Wizard’s music in the past. Tim Bagshaw picks up his bass once again and Mark Greening is on drums. As I said, this is the oddest record from Electric Wizard. Why? The vocal exploits of Jus have taken a back step, in my opinion. His vocals, which were at there most brilliant on ‘Dopethrone’ have taken a beating. On previous efforts, his vocals were mesmerising and controlled the flow of melody which made Electric Wizard an outstanding entity in the doom/stoner genre. However, ‘Let Us Prey’ has had an adverse affect. Jus’ vocals are harsher than they have ever been before, churning out the lyrical content with screams that fall on deaf ears. If it isn’t screams we’re listening to, it’s a muted form of vocals which shows no presence for the most part. Thankfully, as the record does progress, so do his vocals. They take shape in the way that they did on previous efforts. I, for one, am a fan of his vocals, but on this effort they are a let down for the most part. The mesmerising tone to them has all but gone. There once was a time when his vocals could lead you in a very emotional and perhaps even spiritual way, but not on ‘Let Us Prey’. His vocals serve only to confuse, maybe even annoy. If we look at the opening track, ‘…A Chosen Few’ one can see this. The song itself opens nicely. A larger than life leading riff and an excellent bass showing from Tim Bagshaw, but as the track begins to unfold, I found myself asking a lot of questions of Electric Wizard and none of them were being answered by the material. His vocals on this aforementioned song begin in a different way to what we’re used to and although they’re not bad, they’re not as influential as they once were. They seem muted behind the distortion of the guitars. Considering this band follow the doom/stoner stairway to heaven, the vocals need to be commanding and ever present, but Jus’ vocals aren’t. Instead of coming into the song more towards the middle and end, they fade away.

Musically, Electric Wizard don’t sound the same either. However, unlike the vocals, the music has given itself room to experiment and expand. Take ‘Night Of The Shape’ as an example. I assume it is Mark Greening who puts in the piano performance and it is this sort of musical content that I am referring to when I say the sound has altered, but in a way in which it isn’t uninspired, unlike the vocals. The inclusion of piano interludes gives Electric Wizard a sound they’ve never previously had. It’s ultra-dynamic and different. Electric Wizard, on the first two records at least, performed in patterns. Slow monotonous guitars were accompanied by a fine vocal performance and a bass section that allowed the guitar work to take a back seat as it could control the direction of the soundscapes. As the British band has evolved, the sound has slowly faded away from pattern work. Instead, it is varied and unexpected. Similarities do still exist though. The way in which the guitar work can take it easy as the bass will do the showcasing is still the same. One element of this record that remains constantly good is the bass section. One line after another of fantastic leads which take the pressure off Jus who performs the work on the guitar. The bass and guitar take it in turns to do the underlying work on atmospheres. When they alternate, the audience is thrilled by the musicianship of the band because they are able to easily change direction. When bass leads, the guitar does the ground work, laying down the foundations and vice versa. It’s incredible to witness, but again, not as effective as ‘Dopethrone’ was. Songs like ‘Priestess Of Mars’ give us hope though. It is songs like this that later become central figures in the sound of this band. Giving way to the old style, which seemed lazy at times, songs like the aforementioned are hard working and complex in atmosphere. The percussion performance is as high as it’s ever been, offering variation and good snare work in particular. Whilst this effort isn’t going to be held in the high esteem that ‘Dopethrone’ is, it’s still good.

The darkest Electric Wizard album - 96%

Exystence, April 30th, 2005

Jus Oborn has done it again, as the follow-up to the legendary Dopethrone is every bit as good, if not better. This is my favorite Electric Wizard album, and possibly my favorite doom album in general. This album is darker than any of their others, and it creates a true sense of overwhelming doom. Production-wise, everything sounds clearer than Dopethrone, which maybe makes it sound less heavy, but it contributes more to the album than anything. The guitars are still extremely distorted and downtuned and bassy. Jus Oborn's riffage is consistently heavy and doomy and always the center of attention, while his singing is distorted beyond intelligibility and put behind everything else, giving a sort of suffocating sound to them. Tim Bagshaw's bass playing compliments Oborn's guitar, adding to the heaviness, and Mark Greening's drumming is solid as always.

The album starts off with ...a Chosen Few, which begins with guitar feedback before phasing into the trademark impossibly heavy riffage. Most of the songs consist of two or three different riffs that drone on and on, with stonery leads and feedback weaving in and out of them. It's incredibly effective and entrancing. There are two songs that deviate from this: We, the Undead and Night of the Shape. We, the Undead is by far the most... 'active' song in Electric Wizard's entire catalogue. It's different from anything they've ever done, with some fast (for them, anyway) riffage and insanely distorted screaming. It seems to be an experimental type of song for them, and I suppose it could be a turn-off if you're not expecting it, but it's a really powerful and enjoyable song once the initial 'shock' is overcome. The other atypical song here is Night of the Shade, which centers itself around a piano-riff, of all things, with a midpaced drum beat and swirling sounds. It's dark and dreamlike, almost horror film-like, and it fits the mood of the album perfectly. The highlight of the album is probably Master of Alchemy, an instrumental that contains what is probably the darkest section of any Electric Wizard song from about 3:30 to the end.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who's a fan of doom and stoner. It's mindnumbly crushing, dark, and heavy album that any fan of heavy music can appreciate. As others have said, it's more experimental than previous releases, but it definitely pays off in the end. With Let Us Prey, Electric Wizard once again delivers us some of the best doom in the business.

Let Us Rock - 90%

BallOfMoltenLead, March 23rd, 2005

Let Us Prey is the second Electric Wizard album I've purchased (the first being Dopethrone), and while it's not as spectactular as Dopethrone, it's still quite good and an essential to any doom fan's collection. Electric Wizard writes incredibly slow, bone-crushingly heavy and psychedelic riffs that never get boring, even though a majority of their songs are around the 9-10 minute mark. Jus Oborn's vocals are even more distorted and fuzzed-out than on their previous album. Most of the time you can barely understand what he's saying, and it doesn't help that the lyrics are absent from the cover booklet. There's no doubt that these people are big dopesmokers, as their lyrics often revolve around it, and the songs can be very trippy. Anyways, on to the song analysis.

1. A Chosen Few - The opening track is indeed very representative of the album. The bass has a velvety tone while still being heavy as fuck. Jus' vocals echo throughout, while the drums pound away to the absolutely killer riff. This is a rather dark and misanthropic song, as is the rest of the album really. Just as you start to get lost in the deep soundscape, the song fades out into a mess of distortion and feedback. 9.5/10.

2. We, The Undead - This song breaks from the slow doom and gives you a more fast-paced stoner-rockish time. While still a pretty good song, it just doesn't fit, and I feel like I'd rather have another A Chosen Few than this. 7/10.

3. Master of Alchemy: a) House of Whipcord b) The Black Drug - This is one of my favorite EW tracks. It immediately starts our with an ass-kicking riff and carries out the ass-kicking for the rest of the song. It's entirely instrumental too, and one of my top ones at that. It calms down a little bit after a while, but only comes back with more mind-busting awesome-ness. 10/10.

4. The Outsiders - Another excellent song. Starts out with lots of feedback and a slow bass part. Soon the trudging guitars come in and Oborn's echoing vocals begin to flood the song. His vocals in this song aren't nearly as fuzzy and abrasive, so you can actually make sense of what he's saying most of the time. The psychedelic bits are among my favorites. 9.5/10.

5. Night of the Shape is a very untraditional song for EW. Instead of a downtuned collage of distorted guitars and trippy bass, you have a rather sad song with piano, violin (played by Paul Sax), and a poppy drum beat. This is a great song itself, and it also serves quite well as a short break before the next track. 8.5/10.

6. Priestess of Mars - Priestess of Mars is another standout song and probably my second favorite on the album. It's similar to tracks 1,3, and 4, in that it's not a very unconventional EW song, such as Night of the Shape or We, The Undead. I really love the way Jus repeats the line "You are my Priestess of Mars" over and over as the album nears the end. 9/10.

Overall: This album seems to have lost some of the groovy stoner-ish parts that were so prominent on Dopethrone, and instead leans towards more conventional doom. As others have said, it's a tad bit experiemental for Electric Wizard, but still one hell of an album. While it doesn't quite live up to the doom classic Dopethrone, Let Us Prey is still a solid album and a must for any Electric Wizard collection.

Let us prey - 88%

Raw_man, February 2nd, 2003

First, I'd like to give a quick introduction to Electric Wizard. They play extremely slow, extremely downtuned, extremely distorted kind of Metal. I've once seen them categorized as Stoner Metal. They smoke weed, that's for sure, but I don't think that they see green small dragons and fairies after that and feel at one with the universe. Their music is droning, depressive and definitely not for happy mood.I wouldn't say that I generally prefer them over, say, Spiritual Beggars, but when I'm not in my best mood, nothing is better than one listen to Electric Wizard.

Now, off with the introduction and to the album. It is heavy. In some sense it is the heaviest album I've ever heard. And before objections are raised, heaviness is not always measured in speed, harshness of vocals, or extreme lyrics. If music can convert a happy flowers lover and animals rights defender to an angry misanthrope then it IS heavy. And I think that this album is capable of doing that. Totally distorted, downtuned and slow guitars mixed with sparse, unintelligible and distorted vocals, and bass which is also unsurprusingly distorted and downtuned.

Actually only the drums are not distorted on this album! Main point here is the atmosphere, catchiness lurks with repetition of slow riffs, but it definitely does not get the main stage. This is one ugly stepchild of Black Sabbath - there is always the spirit of that 3-notes riff in that first metal song from '69, but I think Iommi himself would be shocked if someone got a time machine and brought him this album back then.

Now, song by song:
1. A chosen few - is totally representative of the album, dominating slow riff,
distorted vocals and dark atmosphere. If you don't like it, then no chance that you would like the rest of the album or Electric Wizard at all.

2. We, the undead - now, this song is totally UNrepresentative of the album - it was the first song from the album that became available and many people got completely disappointed. It is the closest this album gets to conventional song, with a bit annoying start-stop structure, which requires some getting used to. I actually kind of like it, but I think it should be the last on the album.

3. Master of alchemy - this is my favourite song on the album and favourite Electric Wizard song. Period. It doesn't have any vocals, but it is so dark, pessimistic and just HEAVY! The song is 10 minutes long and more or less divided into two equal parts, each having as a backbone one hellish riff.

4. The outsider - again, vocals do not start until 3 minutes into the song, while another trademark riff develops. Another great song that supports and improves the atmosphere of the album.

5. Night of the shape - again no vocals, but one disturbing keyboard(?) riff played over and over mournful background. This song would not earn marks for complexity, but full points for correct placing and timing. It would be almost pointless out of the context of the album, but it is perfect where it is.

6. Priestess of Mars - this is my least favourite song on the album, and this is why at least 10 points are deduced. It is closest sounding song to 'Come my fanatics..." style and it is just average. Still ok, but not on par with Chosen Few, Master of Alchemy and Outsider.

Well, that's it. If you want to try something really extreme and slow - go for this one, it can't get much better than this.

Oh, and one might ask "why only 6 songs?". Well, 3 of them are at about 10 minutes length and the others are not shorties either. That's extreme doom Metal, folks!

Highlights : A chosen few, Master of alchemy, The outsider