ELECTRIC WIZARD – “BLACK MASSES”

ELECTRIC WIZARD – “BLACK MASSES”
RISE ABOVE (2010)

Metal Church - The Present Wasteland

Life is full of beautiful paradoxes! Take for instance the case of the Dorset-based Doom, Stoner or whatever-else-you-want-to-call-it quartet Electric Wizard. These fine British noisemakers made a whole career out of indulging in lengthy compositions whose pace was generally slower than a middle aged tortoise. This unique approach to song writing, which helped them gain a loyal following with some, and inspire a love-it-or-hate-it attitude with others, and which was responsible for the creation of classic releases such as “Come My Fanatics…” (1997) and “Dopethrone” (2000), strangely seems to no longer be representative of their musical direction in the year 2010! Gathering up a pace and further utilizing Liz Buckingham’s guitar skills, Electric Wizard created a totally different beast – a straight-forward groovy-sounding opus entitled “Black Masses”.

Those of you who read my review of that band’s previous album “Witchcult Today” (2007) and who are quite aware of how fond I was of that melodic dirty gem, should not be surprised by the fact that I ended up sharing the exact same feelings towards “Black Masses”, since these two releases are clearly connected. Riffs are once again simply crafted and melodic, Jus Oborn’s guitar sound and lead vocals are both heavily distorted and quite organic (the album was recorded in 100% analogue) and the choruses/refrains are deliberately crafted to demand your ‘participation’ when performed live. In effect, here is a band that is deciding to re-use a recently successful formula. Is that a good or a bad thing? To answer that, we should analyse further…

An album with such alleged attributes is obliged to kick off with a bang and that is exactly the case with “Black Mass” – a six minute mid-tempo, simply riffed groovy piece whose melodic refrain is one of the catchiest moments of the whole album. The band’s love and appreciation for Black Sabbath that is so clearly audible in the riffs of the opening track is also present in the equally long “Venus In Furs” and that is all well, however, by the time the third similarly-sounding composition “Night Child” made its appearance, elements of fear stated to creep into my mind! Is the whole album going to move in the same charming but quite predictable direction? “Patterns Of Evil” certainly seemed to suggest that, however, it was up to “Satyr IX” to change the landscape. Based on an arduously slow riff and with guitar solos heavily influenced by the almighty Paradise Lost, this nine minute opus is a treat for any old-school Electric Wizard fan! “Turn Off Your Mind” I another groovy-laden mid-tempo opus, but one that stands out from the crowd, whereas “Scorpio Curse” indulges in slow and massive sounding Sabbathy riffs. Oborn and Co certainly managed to leave the best for last, as the epic/eerie sounding intro of “Crypt Of Drugula” in connection with its mesmerising/repetitive main theme provide a proud ending and also a highlight for this quite varied release.

I am not quite sure what the old-school fans of the band will make of “Black Masses”, as it finds the band moving further away from the slow and primitive style & sound of their first three classic releases. Is this a bad thing? The answer to that question is ‘no’ for many different reasons! The songs are still impressive, though slightly more accessible, the sound is as dirty and organic as always (thanks to the revered distortion pedal) and there is still plenty of room for beautifully-crafted atmospheric passages whose dark and haunting melodies will keep good company to those who are loyal! Electric Wizard are not the same band they were back in 1995, but would anybody seriously expect that to be the case? If we judge music simply with quality in mind, both in terms of song writing and performances, then then there is absolutely no reason why fans of the band and the Doom/Stoner genre would not like “Black Masses”. This album will not reinvent the wheel but it will certainly keep on spinning it with its rough nature and primitive force!

John Stefanis

Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)


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