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"Witchcult Today" is probably the most ironic title that Electric Wizard could have come up with for this album. It is without doubt the most retro sounding album of 2007. This no doubt has a lot to do with them only using analogue equipment whilst recording at the equally lo-fi Toe Rag Studios in London. Authenticity is definitely the main focus of this release and the final result speaks for itself. If a copy of this album fell through a vortex and landed in the year 1973, no-one would suspect a thing.
These new tracks return once again to the cult of drugged-out guitar bands that were around before the dawn of extreme metal, and so they all conform to the old school structures as well. Prominent choruses, Hammond organ bridges and long guitar solos form the backbone of the tracks. This is the most obvious difference to earlier albums, as every track keeps the music going forward in a development of riffs. There are still a few breakdowns and descents into chaos, but these are used as back-up to a guitar solo rather than being used as a cheap fade-out for a track that had no ending written for it.
It might not be a landmark release in the same way as 2000's soul-crushing Dopethrone, but it does still present some interesting changes from previous Electric Wizard records. The sound is much smoother with the guitars steeped in a weighty "fuzz" rather than the sharp, abrasive crackles of previous albums. Jus Oborn's vocals pay greater heed to that previously overlooked idea of melody too: coming one step closer to Ozzy and further away from the tortured ravings of a man who has smoked one too many bong hits. The Sabbath comparison was inevitable at some point in this review, and something that the band clearly embraces themselves. The first track even opens with the lyrics “Come fanatics, come to the Sabbath”, just to really make sure they get the point across.
Witchcult Today is Electric Wizard's most accessible album to date. A few of the standout tracks could have made great singles too, in a different time when people actually bought singles. The Chosen Few in particular has a classic hook that would make it a massive radio hit, if only satan was allowed to DJ for the BBC. Witchcult Today could potentially mark a turning point in Electric Wizard's career to a more commercial sound, but right now they have a solid foundation, a strong line up, and another high quality album to build on.
(written for Blast!zine issue one: http://www.myspace.com/blastzine)