Ah, Electric Wizard. If you don’t know them by now, you will never, never, never know them. No you won’t. Well, scratch that; maybe you will. After all, the legendary doom outfit has just put out their ninth (!) full length record and, although it seems unimaginable that there could be metal heads unfamiliar with the band’s discography and sound, it’s incumbent to remember that not everybody is as old as dirt like yours truly. In fact, it’s been over twenty years since the band first started releasing music so it stands to reason that there are plenty of readers who weren’t even born when Dopethrone dropped and left its massive resin stain on the world of stoner doom and sludge. While that certainly makes me feel old, it also presents an exciting opportunity for younger listeners. THIS IS NOT A DRILL: if you have never listened to Electric Wizard’s seminal album Dopethrone, you are required to take an hour today and give it a spin. Arguably as important as any album in the genre, Dopethrone cemented the sound of filthy, distorted, bass-heavy stoner doom and paved the way for hundreds of bands and albums that followed in its smoky, bongwater-soaked path.
Having a seismic, genre-shaking album in your discography certainly seems like a blessing and a curse. As rewarding and gratifying as it must be to have your band’s artistic efforts reach such influential heights, the crushing weight of follow-up expectations are enough to cripple any group and stifle any hope of future artistic exploration. Happily – and the first portion of this review notwithstanding – enough time and proverbial bridge water have passed such that Electric Wizard seem comfortable playing music on their own terms, free of any obligations or shackles to their previous work.
As such, Wizard Bloody Wizard has a built-in sense of loose fun that was not as immediately apparent in Electric Wizard’s previous records. The five proper tracks on Bloody (joined by the mid-album interlude of sorts “The Reaper”) are more funhouse than haunted house: yes, things are still slightly scary and due reverence is paid to demons, drugs, and death, but it’s all dealt out with a lighthearted touch and a liberal dose of camp. Musically, these lightly distorted, blues-based jams are much closer to shaggy garage-psych than any self-serious, horror-laden doom. And, to be sure, this is all to the album’s benefit. At this point, Electric Wizard are a band with nothing at all to prove and the tracks on Wizard Bloody Wizard are largely enjoyable rockers, low stakes but not disposable and bursting with the engaging yet unsettling black-magic energy of a travelling carnival.
The album opener and lead single “See You in Hell” kicks things off with an appropriately macabre tone, with Jon Osborn wailing that he’s “so dead inside, wishing [he] could die” so he can join his only friend, Lucifer. Taking the lyrics at face value, “See You in Hell” may represent the darkest thematic moments of the entire album and the thudding, bottom-heavy music repeating ad nauseum behind the vocals does a lot to hammer the anguish home. Things pick up considerably both in tempo as well as playfulness with “Necromania,” a ripping psych rock jam in praise of all things mixing pleasure and pain. With comic book vividness, Osborn sings the praises of funeral shadows, black whips of leather, and sharing the pleasures of the flesh in an orgiastic celebration of both living and dead. “Necromania” represents a winning combination of swaggering musicality, midnight-horror theatrics, and a carefree, celebratory atmosphere that the band employs numerous times throughout Wizard Bloody Wizard to largely successful results.
The remaining tracks on the album follow suit through varying degrees of swirling doom rock, haunted sexuality, and druggy occult celebration. But there’s hardly a need to belabor this review with excessive verbiage: this is a later-era Electric Wizard album. There are scant surprises to be found but, for listeners eager to keep the doom-tinged terror fest alive and kicking, Wizard Bloody Wizard is, thankfully, largely disappointment-free as well. Cheers to Electric Wizard for successfully rising about their past, adapting their sound as they see fit, and rocking out on nobody’s terms but their own. Hail the Wizard.
Wizard Bloody Wizard is available November 17, 2017 via Spinefarm.