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After surviving numerous shows gone awry, problems with the law and substance abuse; Electric Wizard—or rather Jus Oborn—returns with an entirely new lineup, a cleaner, more refined sound and (gasp) clean vocals. Released after the experimental Let Us Prey, many fans were curious to see whether EW would return back to their signature “lovecraftian drug-cult sludge” sound or follow in uncharted new direction. Although it left some fans disappointed, Electric Wizard chose the latter and went down a more traditional doom path.
The first change the listener would probably notice is that the guitar tone is no longer the mind-altering, void of horror that previous classics Dopethrone and Fanatics boasted so flawlessly, but a hazier, traditional sound with a large quantity of feedback and distortion. This, in my opinion, works well for the Wizard, because instead of hiding behind a wall of impenetrable sound, it forces the band to write interesting and well developed songs in order to keep the listener’s attention: however, some songs may feel a bit dull on some listens due to the overall length and lack of energy shown in the instruments. Eko Eko Azarak, for example, starts out great, but after the vocals end, the guitars plod on for quite awhile with repetitive chord strumming that feels a bit uninspired.
The next two noticeable changes in this album both involve the vocals. First, the transfer from dense distorted shrieks to cleaner, more drawn out yells. And second, the change from a secondary role to a primary focus. I, for one, favor the cleaner vocal style present in We Live because, to me, it conveys more emotion and atmosphere while still allowing the guitars to have a prominent role in the overall sound. A great example would be the fifteen minute epic, Saturn’s Children, it contains an emotional by Jus after the six minute mark that always manages to take me places unknown in my conscious (strange, I know) but it feels very spacey, unique and consistently impacts me on every listen.
The rhythm section, for the most part, is pretty standard, not much to say, but nothing really stands out too much. The lyrics, on the other hand, are great! The lyrics vary from misanthropy (Another Perfect Day) to the apocalypse (The Sun Has Turned to Black) to revenge beyond the grave (We Live). The lyrics are simple, but very effective and tend to build the atmosphere very well; they also fit very well for Jus’ new voice and always seem to flow without sounding awkward or forced.
The songs themselves are very mesmerizing and will often keep the listener intrigued, whether it is the hypnotizing verse of Malfiore, or the pummeling title track, it never lets you go and intends to take throughout the whole journey. But, Electric Wizard isn’t complete without a barrage of earth shattering, so how does this outing compare to previous releases? Well, although the riffing may not be as strong as their other albums, We Live contains some very great riffs, my favorite being the jazzy, upbeat doom riff that starts Another Perfect Day, it is heavy, quick and in a way calming; however, some riffs tend to be standard chord progressions, which actually works very well in most songs, most notably in The Sun Has Turned to Black. Also the solos have improved greatly, gone is the mindless noodling that plagued previous albums, now the solos can stand on their own and contribute to a song’s overall feel, with the obvious example of Saturn’s Children’s dramatic ending solo that is drenched with feeling and psychedelia.
The atmosphere in this outing is stranger than any other Electric Wizard release; it changes frequently and can make you feel strange just listening to certain songs. For example, Eko Eko Azarak makes me feel like I’m in an alien airship traveling strange, distant galaxies; it feels very alien and eerie in a unique way (drugs recommended). While a song like Malfiore, feels like you are taking a stroll through a dense, murky swamp complete with a mysterious fog and other-worldly plantation. Of course, this is Electric Wizard we are talking about; meaning drugs may play a large role in how you interpret the sound, although you do need to be intoxicated to find enjoyment or atmosphere in this album.
Overall, We Live is a very strong release and is a welcome addition to EW’s discography. It marks a new era for the Wizard that contains many positive attributes that, in time, will be improved in future releases, and hopefully, helps other bands realize that change can be good.