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Decent Sabbath-worship with glimpses of the future - 70%

Fungicide, February 7th, 2005

Before they became one of the leading lights of a vibrant English stoner/doom scene, Electric wizard were a run of the mill Sabbath-worship band. Whilst their earlier output will be of little interest to those without a special interest in the band or the Sabbathesque trad-Doom they played on their first record, the bands self titled debut is not without a certain charm in its own right.
The lyrics touch on the same themes Ozzy’s did in the early 70’s: corrupt politicians, occult ritualism, personal struggle against malign forces, drugs. Whilst the themes are as old as Heavy Metal itself, Jus Osborn (coincidence?) writes slightly more coherently than his predecessor, the dove munching brummy, and (as can be expected from a writer operating within the milieu of a more mature genre) his verses feel more authentic to the modern listener, although they lack the power to shock or subvert that Ozzy’s often fairly naive attempts had when they were still young.
Whilst Osborn’s lyrics surpass those of his heroes on this album, his riffing doesn’t stand up to that of Tommi Iomi, which is not to say that it is poor, but it less consistent in terms of the quality of individual riffs and the manner in which they are arranged. Nor is his riffing style so varied, especially in terms of tempo, with the album chugging away at standard trad-Doom speed throughout. Still, when he is on top of his game, Osborn is a master of the crushing riff, and there are plenty of those scattered through the album, as well as some groovier sections that remind one of Cathedral’s ‘disco doom’, though these are rare and tastefully used. Ocassional a riff gets old for the listener before it does for the band, and some riffs are too monotone, but these are minor complaints and for the most part solid guitar parts are intelligently arranged to good effect.
The bass is surprisingly anonymous, especially for a Doom album, mirroring as it does the movements of the guitar for the most part. However, the instrument does serve to add the requisite weight to the sound, and on rare occasions it even sets the pace of sections providing an interesting counterpoint to the predominantly guitar driven body of the album. The drumming on the album is equally unremarkable, but competent and functional. Neither instrument will draw your attention for long.
Osborn delivers his lyrics in a far cleaner voice than on later albums, which suits the style of the music better than a more abrasive approach would. His vocal lines interact nicely with the instruments, rather than just being there for the sake of it without really relating to what’s going on around, as vocals too often are especially in this sub-genre. However, their lack of variation, and largely subservient role in the compositions might dissatisfy some listeners.
Overall, the album is basically solid, and at times Jus Osborn’s guitar work is excellent, but the lack of inspiration in three of the four instruments (if one includes vox) and the dependence of the album on guitar work with such a small, if eloquently used, musical vocabulary, makes for a record that is not as engaging or as accomplished as the band’s later work.