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The Wizard Lives On. - 90%

Perplexed_Sjel, July 8th, 2008

Four years have passed since everybody’s favourite British crossover act, of this nature at least, issued perhaps their most successful record to date, ‘Dopethrone’. This doom and stoner crossover had really taken hold on ‘Dopethrone’. The inspiration that smoking dope all day long brings seemed to have the best possible outcome on the music of Electric Wizard. In the beginning, there were numerous concerns over the direction and style of Electric Wizard. They entered the metal world with trepidation and from there on, for at least two records, they sounded unsure of themselves, unsure of their abilities. It was becoming clear to see that Electric Wizard would begin to operate in the future when ‘Dopethrone’ was released. It marked a number of positive changes. These included better direction, a higher sense of innovation and an all round improved performance. No longer were the band appealing in one or two departments only, but in all. Whilst both genres, doom and stoner, are notably slow, Electric Wizard’s approach made them seem distant and lazy in the early stages of development. ‘Dopethrone’ seemed to be the start of something special, the band were really beginning to take shape and unfold into a spectacular and supreme act of British music. They seemed to have matured. ‘We Live’ is the fifth drug induced trip down to stoner’s paradise and once again, Electric Wizard have shown marked improvement. The once erratic and uninspired sound has long since dissipated into nothingness and has been replaced by limitless potential. ‘We Live’ is, to me, the most significant product of Electric Wizard. Various line-up changes have occurred and whilst the musicians who have left were beginning to improve on the last record, the replacements are already hitting form right from the offset. On drums, Mark Greening has been replaced by the strong willed Justin Greaves. On bass, Rob Al-Issa has taken control from Tim Bagshaw and finally, the most important new addition, Liz Buckingham as the second guitarist.

With numerous changes in line-up, Electric Wizard are distinctly different in sound. ‘Dopethrone’ isn’t as accessible as ‘We Live’. There are numerous improvements because of the line-up changes, which were a smart move by the band. Jus Oborn, the only surviving member from the original line-up, is back and bigger than before. His voice is ever so commanding. It grapples with the emotions of the audience and hypnotizes them into feeling how he wants us to feel. The true beauty behind the newly improved Electric Wizard is the simple fact that there are now better musicians operating at the controls of the band, bending and shaping it’s sound into whatever form they want. ‘Dopethrone’, whilst being the most creative and effectively innovative record, is not quite up to the standard of ‘We Live’. This record is by far more deserving of praise, to me. Positives, well, there are a few. Jus’ voice has grown in stature, once again. Take the epic title track, ‘We Live’. His voice is incredibly powerful. From beginning to end he commands centre stage and portrays the essence of Electric Wizard in an almost ironic manner. His voice is not only electric, but it has a mystical tone to it. His voice has a special ability of being able to weave in and out of the instruments, especially the guitars, another important improved area. It is no secret that using two guitarists allows a band to be more experimental in sound. There were occasions on previous efforts where Electric Wizard would sound flat, or jaded. No longer is that an issue. Liz Buckingham is a very competent guitarist, I assume she plays the main leads and Jus supports her, leaving him to focus mainly on his vocal exploits, which have improved because of this. Due to the fact that Liz can concentrate the efforts of the guitar on soundscapes, rather that trying to overshadow, Jus can concentrate on his most valuable asset to the band, his voice. The passion, pride and desire to succeed shine through in his voice. On previous efforts, it always seemed like he knew that his voice was the only major asset the band had at that stage, but now, with the new musicians brought in, Electric Wizard have upped their game and it shows significantly. His voice portrays the lyrics with raw emotion and that gives the lyrics themselves more feeling.

“Can't fucking die,
Can't fucking win,
Got something to prove,
Got nothing to lose.

You hoped I was dead,
But I'm born again,
I shall be avenged,
Cold blooded revenge.”

In some ways, I see the title track ‘We Live’ as a metaphor for the bands revival under the new members. Whilst the reputation was beginning to become set in stone, the latest arrivals have given the bands name a new meaning. Lyrically, Electric Wizard possess a fine ability to be able to portray the themes precisely and well. The lyrics aren't overdone, or clichéd. Passion has been restored to what was once a lazy outfit. The song, to me, suggests that the band are back and bigger than ever. They appear to be more rejuvenated now than on the most loved effort, ‘Dopethrone’ which marked a new era for the band as well. Whilst ‘Dopethrone’ lacked in fast moving songs, ‘We Live’ has no problem with picking up the pace, which is slightly unusual for the band as their sound mainly consisted of slow to mid paced tempos. The new drummer, Justin Greaves, is more explosive. His regular use of the high hat and blaring snare attacks show this to the adoring audience. The drums and bass were often overlooked before ‘Dopethrone’, but ‘We Live’ has altered that. Bass is a constant source of enjoyment for the audience. It’s low sound is reminiscent of Electric Wizard on yesteryear. Whilst the band have gradually moved away from a slower sound in their first three records, ‘We Live’ aims to put the life back into the heart and soul of Electric Wizard with immediate effect. The emphasis is much more underlined. Take ‘Another Perfect Day?’. This is perhaps the fastest Electric Wizard song to my knowledge. It’s jazzy guitar lead, followed by a backing riff which ebbs and flows behind the scenes, Electric Wizard seem to have better control over the direction of songs. This song, for example, is catchier than we’ve ever heard Electric Wizard be before. It’s much more experimental with tempos, especially on drums which often has a good use of double bass, than ever before and finally, the soundscapes are interestingly varied. There is a mixture of aggressive songs, laid back lullaby’s and monstrous moments on each instrument, especially drums. The production is clearer than ‘Dopethrone’ also. This is pivotal, to me. The likelihood of catching something that may have been missed on previous efforts is lessened by the improved song writing and much more ideal production. To me, ‘We Live’ is the best effort out of the first five and the title track is the best song out of the lot.