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We Live was a pivotal record for Electric Wizard (more importantly, for frontman/vocalist/guitarist Jus Oborn). Longtime members Tim Bagshaw and Mark Greening had just departed, leaving Oborn 2 options: reassemble the band many agree is the heaviest in the universe, or leave it and move on.
Oborn, thankfully, chose to continue on with Electric Wizard. In doing so, he recruited drummer Justin Greaves, and bassist Rob Al-Issa. Oborn also made a new and rather surprising choice: bring in a second guitarist, Liz Buckingham. This was perhaps the best decision made in along time. In recruiting a second guitarist, Oborn allowed fresh ideas and riffs to enter the fold. A second guitarist also gives him more freedom to make riffs more complex and interesting, as it would have been more difficult to do before and cover vocals at the same time.
So, the changes were good, and thankfully, the album went the same way. We Live is six songs of heavy, mournful doom at its finest.
An aspect of We Live that I am very much a fan of is the production. Gone is the incredibly dirty, over clipped mixing seen used fully on Dopethrone and Come My Fanatics... Make no mistake: this doesn't mean the production is "clean". Don't expect the worst- this is not the shitty modern production that every listener of true metal despises. While not incredibly dirty and numbing, the production still maintains a great murky, muddiness.
Another aspect of We Live I enjoy is the guitar tones. On Dopethrone and Come My Fanatics..., Oborn had an incredibly heavy, distorted tone. This time around, he and Buckingham seem to favor an older, more retro fuzz sound (undoubtedly turned to 11). As a result, the individual notes seem a bit easier to pick out, resulting in a clearer listen that remains heavy as fuck.
When it comes to Electric Wizard, not much needs to be said about riffs. They remain true here, being repetitive, slightly bluesy, and heavy as ever. In fact, the addition of another guitar has, in my opinion, increased the overall heaviness. Bassist Rob Al-Issa seems fairly audible, and routinely follows the guitar riffs, yet again increasing heaviness. Drummer Justin Greaves does a great job with keeping time, also manages to add little fills and build ups which help to add variety and an inventiveness seen only with the best drummers in doom. Earl of Void would be proud.
Vocally, Oborn is at his best yet. On past records, he has been known, while producing, to not completely like his vocals, responding with "Bury that shit." This is not the case here. Finely done, Oborn's vocals are completely audible, understandable, and at times, catchy. See "Eko Eko Azarek" for an example of catchy, yet doomy lyrics:
"Black pyramids under martian sun,
Priests chant ancient necropsalms,
Summon winds across the desert sands,
Sun sets on this dying land.
Black ships tear through martian skies,
Earthbound send by sorcerous flight,
13 years through black depths of space,
Ancient race seed this cursed place."
In short, We Live is the Wizard's finest album. Their combination of excellent riffs, great production, lyrics, and vocals, along with the general feeling of impending doom, makes this an incredible listen. Pick this up now: this is essential doom.