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Doom at it's stoner best - 95%

gk, November 24th, 2007

Electric Wizard blew me away with Dopethrone. To this day there’s nothing quite like that album. Subsequent releases have seen a completely new line up with the exception of mainman Jus Oborne and while good, were not anywhere close to their early releases.

Title song Witchcult Today starts proceedings and it’s a typical crawling guitar riff and snail paced tempo. The change is in the vocals which are noticeably more prominent in the mix. Also, it seems like the band is building on the grooves here and as the song rumbles to a conclusion with a neat bass line at the end I didn’t realise that almost eight minutes had passed. There’s something a bit different about this one but I’ll get to that later. Dunwich is a lot more up tempo (comparatively). It comes across a bit like a slowed down Misfits song with the vocals sounding a little bit like uncle Glenn. Essentially though, it’s the same riff played for 5 minutes with a whole bunch of stuff happening in layers of lo-fi fuzz underneath it and you’ll either love it or hate it.

Satanic Rites of Drugula sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a bad trip and I think it’s probably intended to be that way. This is the aural essence of a bad trip somehow distilled into sound. Luckily it’s over in about six minutes and is the closest that things get to the oppressive nature of Dopethrone. Raptus is a short instrumental piece that gives this reviewer a chance to catch his breath and we’re off into The Chosen Few. If the three songs preceding this were pretty damn good, this one is spectacular. Lengthy, with some laid back fuzzed out grooves, three enormous crawling riffs and a melodic lead guitar part that threatens to drown in the fuzz but somehow keeps it’s head above water. Also, before I forget, there’s a pretty memorable vocal line here. Now, that’s a bit of a change.

Torquemada 71 is heavy. Its riffs crash into each other and there’s a real bass heavy bottom end to this song that makes it quite overwhelming but some of the momentum is lost as the song switches to a softer mode with the rhythm section jamming away and the guitars simply meandering before a conclusion that sounds like some 70s rock band’s live jam. A bit hit and miss there.

The album closes out with two songs that might well determine how you like this album. They’re both lengthy and quite different in feel to each other. The first, Black Magic Rituals and Perversions has an ambient feel as the band slowly build a wall of fuzzed out drone with various effects like crickets and forest sounds popping up. The second half of the song is more percussion led as the guitars swirl and the band give up on the heaviness factor to build an ambient piece. This largely succeeds as the song doesn’t become background music. At the same time it sounds a little self indulgent and meanders a good deal even for the Wizard. Album closer Saturnine though is a spaced out and fuzzy rock song with a central riff that’s all Black Sabbath but the grooves seem more like Hawkwind. The ending reminds me a bit of early Monster Magnet in it’s one recurring bass line and sludgy lo-fi feel of the guitars and the song is definitely another highlight and ends the album perfectly.

Witchcult Today heralds a bit of a change for Electric Wizard. The album benefits with the prominence that the vocals have received and the songs have become a bit more accessible. The unrelenting feeling of claustrophobia has been replaced by a bit of a rock n roll swagger. The band rock out on songs like Dunwich and The Chosen Few albeit in proper Electric Wizard fashion. The biggest change for me though is that Witchcult Today is not a downer. The music is still lo-fi fuzzy doom metal of the stoner persuasion but this time around it seems a bit warmer, friendlier and happier.

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