UK Doom outfit Electric Wizard are rightly held in high regard. One of the few bands to proudly wear the influence of Black Sabbath long before it became cool again, Jus Oborn & co. were making dirty, but earth-rattling Doom like no one else at the time. These days, there’s no shortage of bands aping the band’s classic material. But based on the evidence of new album Wizard Bloody Wizard (Spinefarm), the imposters probably do it better than Electric Wizard themselves these days.
The band’s ninth album see them strip the sound back somewhat. The thick, hazy sound that permeated earlier releases has given way to a cleaner, more classic 70s rock style. While that’s no bad thing in itself, the quality of songwriting is lain bare without the cover of distorted smog and found wanting in places.
The best way to describe first half of the album is stodgy. The band were never known for pace, but this just feels plodding. Lead single ‘See You in Hell’ charges at slow speed straight into the action; it might well be Electric Wizard’s most direct and accessible track ever, but at seven minutes it outstays what was never a particularly warm welcome. The one-two of ‘Necromania’ and ‘Hear the Sirens Scream’ just feel lacklustre, and while a few subpar tracks can normally be forgiven, combined they take up nearly a third of the album.
The usual Ozzy-era Sabbath influences are present for all to hear, and in truth this probably the closest the band have come to sounding like actual Sabbath. But it’s missing that sinister aura the band’s best material has; that dirty, menacing sound that invoked satanic weed smoke with just a few bars. Dopethrone or Legalize Drugs and Murder (both Rise Above) this ain’t.
‘The Reaper’ – a pseudo-middle eastern ballad – marks the halfway mark and sees things improving somewhat, and thankfully things pick up after that. ‘Wicked Caresses’ is a truly dark and dank track in the finest EW tradition. The 11-minute ‘Mourning of The Magicians’ introduces an eerie psychedelic atmosphere, and builds inch by inch into a crescendo of Tony Iommi-inspired solos and riffing. These two are easily the most satisfying track on offer, and the closest to “classic” Wizard.
If the rest of the album were as good as these two tracks, this could have been a stone-cold classic. But as it is, Wizard Bloody Wizard isn’t vintage Electric Wizard by any means. But the band should be applauded for trying to move their sound on, if even a little.