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Wizard in Green - 75%

Abominatrix, October 7th, 2017

File this one among the early releases of bands that hadn't yet truly found themselves. For this very reason, people who don't generally enjoy Electric Wizard might find something more to appreciate here. Although the album wasn't exactly my introduction to the band, it's still the first LP I heard in full and it was a nice way to sort of ease into the band's discography.

Electric Wizard give us, normally, a very distorted, noisy, dark and evil take on the Sabbath-inspired doom formula. They lace their hymns to narcotics, hate, horror and malevolent mages with psychedelia, and sometimes, walls of churning, malefic noise. The Sabbathian doom can be found here, and the lyrical concepts seem about the same, though their eponymous song is surprisingly positive in tone (think "Dreamer/Deceiver", if you want, for comparison). It's not at all a noisy record, though; in fact it's quite clean sounding, which can simultaneously work for and against the album.

You might be surprised at how great some of these riffs are, though. You may think to yourself, "oh great, another band that wants to sound like Black Sabbath and writes songs about smoking weed, as if there aren't enough of those around", and you'd be right to be cynical. This scene, if you can call it that, is full of the most uninspired musicians who don't seem to have the merest inkling of originality or the ability to stand out from hundreds of others. The members that make up Electric Wizard have been around the block a bit, though, and I think they've always been able to set themselves apart by "cranking up the evil and hate". Most of this "stoner doom" stuff has a rather friendly air about it; by contrast the Wizard would be quite happy to see you dead, or perhaps, undead and slave to an alien drug.

I really must stress that this album, above all else, survives wholly on the strength of its riffs. Although there's some nice soloing and feedback noise at the end of "Electric Wizard", and "Mountains of Mars" is a trippy, effect-laiden instrumental that you can really lose yourself in for a few moments, it's a rather plain-sounding album, all in all, with a stark production job that renders the tunes just a bit bare. Because I've become a fan of much of the band's later work, I'm going to say here that I think this album is just a little subdued and tentative, and that's not really something I want to associate with Electric Wizard. On the other hand, if you aren't really a fan of all the noise and gloom and "fucked-upedness", you might want to turn around and read what I wrote as positive comments, and consider this the most "pure" Electric Wizard album, in the sense that what you're presented with here is the band without embellishments; without the confidence, perhaps, to make their own production choices and maybe limited by comparative inexperience. There is a case to be made for the approach, and certainly this band has occasionally been accused of cloaking their music in so much distortion and effects that people wonder if there's really much there to begin with. I would argue that at least until recently the emperor has worn some really arresting garments, so to speak, but I can understand the reverse position, too.

And the riffs here have a lot to recommend them. Towering behemoths of heaviness, really, cut from the Sabbath formula, certainly, but still fresh enough to stand out. "Devil's Bride", "Behemoth", and the title track have always been favourites, and "Stone Magnet" is a really nice, just slightly more up-tempo opener and makes for a very sensible way with which to begin the album. The songs don't usually overstay their welcome and while they're repetitive, the riffs are sometimes so good that one wants to hear them again and again. Unfortunately the sound isn't as powerful as I think it could be, but that's not really a major complaint, except it never really seems to be loud enough until I turn it up so much that it's distorting my speakers, and hey, that kind of does make it sound like the later albums, a bit! Of surprises there aren't really too many, but I might count the title track once again, for its generally more "hippie-ish" lyrical tone and, of all things, an acoustic guitar solo, which I guess is only surprising in the context of later material.

There you have it, then: an interesting album; possibly a good gateway for some, but ultimately too "normal", I think, to be truly a classic in the field. It's lacking that madness that would come to signify the Wizardly approach. I know a few people who consider this the only really worthwhile album from these lads, and there's at least one review on this site which makes the same assertion. If you ask me, though, the next few albums represent their strongest material.