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The Outsider. - 65%

Perplexed_Sjel, July 15th, 2008

It would seem I missed ‘Let Us Prey’ in my bid to review all the Electric Wizard records. I’m not sure how I managed to completely neglect it’s existence, but nevertheless, here I am. ‘Let Us Prey’ is in fact the fourth full-length from the legendary British band Electric Wizard. After ‘Dopethrone’, which is considered the ultimate best from this act, Electric Wizard had much to live up to. In terms of public opinion, ‘Let Us Prey’ did the band no harm, but it didn’t match the greatness that ‘Dopethrone’ achieved. To many, Electric Wizard will never reach the unprecedented heights that the aforementioned record reached. It was the highlight in a career that doesn’t seem to have many negatives to pin on it, in the eyes of the public. To me, ‘Let Us Prey’ is the oddest Electric Wizard record. In some ways it’s a disappointment and in others, it’s not.

So, are there any differences from the previous outing? The answer is a simple yes. To me, the most overwhelming difference between this effort and the last is on vocals. Jus Osborn takes control, as always, of Electric Wizard but this time, he’s a changed man. Perhaps the experimental tendencies that really began to shine through on ‘Dopethrone’ are truly beginning to take shape on this effort, as opposed to the next. The line-up for this is the same as it previously was. Jus Osborn continues to take lead. Not only does he stand at the front of the band as the vocalist, but he also has creative control over the guitars, the second most important element of Electric Wizard’s music in the past. Tim Bagshaw picks up his bass once again and Mark Greening is on drums. As I said, this is the oddest record from Electric Wizard. Why? The vocal exploits of Jus have taken a back step, in my opinion. His vocals, which were at there most brilliant on ‘Dopethrone’ have taken a beating. On previous efforts, his vocals were mesmerising and controlled the flow of melody which made Electric Wizard an outstanding entity in the doom/stoner genre. However, ‘Let Us Prey’ has had an adverse affect. Jus’ vocals are harsher than they have ever been before, churning out the lyrical content with screams that fall on deaf ears. If it isn’t screams we’re listening to, it’s a muted form of vocals which shows no presence for the most part. Thankfully, as the record does progress, so do his vocals. They take shape in the way that they did on previous efforts. I, for one, am a fan of his vocals, but on this effort they are a let down for the most part. The mesmerising tone to them has all but gone. There once was a time when his vocals could lead you in a very emotional and perhaps even spiritual way, but not on ‘Let Us Prey’. His vocals serve only to confuse, maybe even annoy. If we look at the opening track, ‘…A Chosen Few’ one can see this. The song itself opens nicely. A larger than life leading riff and an excellent bass showing from Tim Bagshaw, but as the track begins to unfold, I found myself asking a lot of questions of Electric Wizard and none of them were being answered by the material. His vocals on this aforementioned song begin in a different way to what we’re used to and although they’re not bad, they’re not as influential as they once were. They seem muted behind the distortion of the guitars. Considering this band follow the doom/stoner stairway to heaven, the vocals need to be commanding and ever present, but Jus’ vocals aren’t. Instead of coming into the song more towards the middle and end, they fade away.

Musically, Electric Wizard don’t sound the same either. However, unlike the vocals, the music has given itself room to experiment and expand. Take ‘Night Of The Shape’ as an example. I assume it is Mark Greening who puts in the piano performance and it is this sort of musical content that I am referring to when I say the sound has altered, but in a way in which it isn’t uninspired, unlike the vocals. The inclusion of piano interludes gives Electric Wizard a sound they’ve never previously had. It’s ultra-dynamic and different. Electric Wizard, on the first two records at least, performed in patterns. Slow monotonous guitars were accompanied by a fine vocal performance and a bass section that allowed the guitar work to take a back seat as it could control the direction of the soundscapes. As the British band has evolved, the sound has slowly faded away from pattern work. Instead, it is varied and unexpected. Similarities do still exist though. The way in which the guitar work can take it easy as the bass will do the showcasing is still the same. One element of this record that remains constantly good is the bass section. One line after another of fantastic leads which take the pressure off Jus who performs the work on the guitar. The bass and guitar take it in turns to do the underlying work on atmospheres. When they alternate, the audience is thrilled by the musicianship of the band because they are able to easily change direction. When bass leads, the guitar does the ground work, laying down the foundations and vice versa. It’s incredible to witness, but again, not as effective as ‘Dopethrone’ was. Songs like ‘Priestess Of Mars’ give us hope though. It is songs like this that later become central figures in the sound of this band. Giving way to the old style, which seemed lazy at times, songs like the aforementioned are hard working and complex in atmosphere. The percussion performance is as high as it’s ever been, offering variation and good snare work in particular. Whilst this effort isn’t going to be held in the high esteem that ‘Dopethrone’ is, it’s still good.