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Fusion doom metal / retro-psych not that great - 60%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, October 10th, 2012

I'd heard of Electric Wizard before but until recently hadn't thought to hear any of their work. "Let Us Prey" seems quite an interesting album for me to start with as compared with their other full-lengths it's the shortest and most opinions and reviews about it are very mixed. My first impression on hearing it was that it's an average doom metal / stoner / retro-psychedelic album with a bit of improvisation and some free-noise influences here and there.

It rises slowly and eases into action with "... A Chosen Few" which features a laid-back yet ominous and stern guitar riff loop, relaxed drumming and reverbed singing. A change in key about halfway through brings in a trance-like element and echoing vocals give the song a spaced-out feel. The coda hints at the experimental angle that appears on and off through the album. Follow-up "We, the Dead" is unexpected garage punk with some circular whirling guitar riffs that remind me a little of old Joy Division in the sound. The song is repetitive and never quite seems to leave the starting-gates even though there is plenty of lead guitar soloing and some great whirling-dervish riff loops. "Master of Alchemy" begins a bit noisily and lackadaisically before sprucing up into a proper doom metal piece with repeating guitar riff loops and steady drumming. The track's structure relies on repetition of riffs that change during the course of this long piece (about nine minutes) and it has a distinctive dark-magic mood with distant phantom voices that emerge from and withdraw back into atmospheric effects.

"The Outsider" is intended as a trance-inducing retro-psychedelic stompathon but it's rather too sedate and the sound is too faithfully retro-pure to its inspirations and not doom metal enough. Guitars need a rougher texture, the pace could have varied more and the atmosphere of the song needs to be more day-glo bleached-out. The band has a stab at a piano-dominated instrumental before swinging into "Priestess of Mars", a fusion of juggernaut sludgey doom metal and retro-psychedelic rock. Erm, the retro influences seem to dominate the doom metal aspects rather too much for my liking and as on "The Outsider" are restricted to sparkly guitar, quavering vocals, space-ambient effects and a dark atmosphere.

Not bad but not all that remarkable is my verdict of the album. It's a pity EW sticks to the straight and narrow path in combining doom metal and retro-psychedelic rock as each style has enough depth and history to lend each other sounds and melodies that not only highlight the other genre's characteristics but also reflect on its own legacy. The slow doom metal with its repetitive riff loops could have highlighted psych-rock's tendency to soar high into the heavens with free-form instrumental music and the psych-rock could have relied on steady doom metal as its foundation for flights of fancy. Neither style of music is stretched to its utmost in sound and melody and the fusion doesn't strive hard for transcendence or a mind-blowing pyrotechnic climax - instead the music is just very circular. Later tracks have the feel of treading water and lack spark and energy.