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How Electric Wizard began as Sabbath worshippers - 75%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, December 27th, 2012

Modestly self-titled, Electric Wizard's debut album ushers in what has come to be an institution in the UK metal scene. Fittingly, the band's name is detailed in the same font that Black Sabbath used for their eponymous debut album. Anyone launching a doom metal band with similar ambitions of becoming a household name in the future, take note ... The artwork by Dave Patchett (best known for his Cathedral album covers) is stunning too, depicting a woman astride a bat-winged seahorse flying through clear waters over a city of colourful yurts and giant statues, one of which recreates a statue of the Graces of Greek mythology.

The foregoing tells you, if you hadn't guessed already, that Electric Wizard's inspirations are bands like Black Sabbath and Cathedral and that their music is steeped in retro or traditional doom metal with stoner influences. Listening to the debut the first time, I can definitely hear the old doom style combined with slower, sludge metal touches and a more psychedelic stoner influence; the surprise is that the music doesn't sound all that dated for its time and still sounds quite fresh even 17 years (17 years!) later. Part of the reason must be that recording and production methods have improved a lot since the late 1960s when the Sabs launched their career and had to make do with whatever studio recording facilities were available to them (and we have to remember too that Tony Iommi and Co faced a lot of prejudice and discrimination in their early career); another reason is that EW use lead guitar solos quite sparingly and don't over-indulge in them to the extent that a lot of old 70s hard rock and metal bands did.

Hearing the album a second time and then a third, I find that it improves with each hearing and there are few filler tracks. For me, the best tracks are fairly sludgey ones like "Black Butterfly" which is a slow foot-dragging affair with long droning guitar chords and an unexpected dive into a change of key for the lead guitar solo, enhanced by reverb which takes the listener into a different dimension of consciousness for a brief time; another such track is "Devil's Bride" with its steady-state motorcycle-at-rest chug alternating with more active and sinuous riffs, and sinister vocals. Nice touch at the end where it all goes completely berserk.

For something very different, the instrumental "Mountains of Mars" has a beautiful and quite spooky space-ambient atmosphere hovering over the bass-dominant rhythm loop. I like the track as it is though I have to stop my mind from thinking (as usual) of all the zillions of ways EW might have worked it into other as yet to be written songs: whatever I think could be done with it, "Mountains ..." certainly shows some potential for the band to pursue a more ambient direction if the musicians had so desired.

I get the impression that EW are finding their feet and not quite sure how to integrate the slower, bass-heavy sludge metal elements into their brand of Sabbath wannabe retro-doom. Songs near the beginning of the album sound quite fresh and enthusiastic. There are still some surprises in trad doom yet to be discovered. This is not a bad album for people new to EW to start with: it shows the band's influences in music and lyrics and demonstrates that even household names often follow in the footsteps of their inspirations - a little too closely perhaps.